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ADELAIDE, Australia: Virat Kohli said Monday he will lead India in the opening Test against Australia in place of the injured Mahendra Singh Dhoni and urged his players to adopt a positive mindset.
There had been speculation that regular skipper Dhoni would resume the captaincy for Tuesday’s Adelaide Test after his late arrival in Australia as he recovers from a fractured thumb.
But Kohli confirmed at the Adelaide Oval that he would take charge of the first of four Tests, determined to expunge the memories of India’s humiliating series loss this year in England.
“Yes, I will be leading India tomorrow,” Kohli said.
“We have plans in mind, we have plans we want to achieve. We have come here with a mindset of winning the series rather than going out there and seeing what happens, that is not an option.
“The guys are on the same page, responding nicely and the guys are comfortable, they feel happy with what we want from them, definitely should be an exciting series.”
Kohli, India’s leading batsman following the retirements of legends Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Virender Sehwag, said Dhoni was still short of full fitness.
“We’ll be expecting him to be at 100 percent fitness over the next few days,” he said. “Obviously, we want him to be 100 percent fit before he plays a game and it’s too short a span for him to go into a Test match without having enough practice here.”
Kohli said the players were no longer thinking about their heavily criticised performances in the heavy series loss to England.
Just four months ago, the Indians, under Dhoni, capitulated 3-1 in England where the five-Test series finished with a colossal innings and 244-run loss at The Oval as the tourists collapsed to 94 all out in their second innings.
“It’s just another two months in life, nothing bigger than that,” said Kohli, who scored just 134 runs in the series at a paltry 13.40.
– ‘Emotional moment’ –
“I don’t know why that England phase is still spoken about, most of us don’t want to remember it and even know what went on in those sessions and those Tests,” he added.
“If you keep sulking about the past there’s no way you’re going to move on in life and that’s something I believe in.”
Kohli would not divulge the Indian team for Tuesday’s Test, although he said batsman Bhuvneshwar Kumar was facing a fitness test on a left ankle sprain.
Kohli said he was personally affected by the death of Australian batsman Phillip Hughes last month, which has had massive reverberations throughout the cricket world and forced the opening Test to be delayed and moved from Brisbane.
“I think after attending the funeral I was as emotional and taken aback by the incident because Phil was one of the guys I used to interact with when he used to come on tours and even when I was in Australia,” he said.
“I was in a camp with him in 2008 at Brisbane and I was always closer to him than most of the guys.
“It was an equally saddening and emotional moment for me, but as professional cricketers you have to move on and do what needs to be done.”
A number of tributes are planned for the Test with the Australian players wearing Hughes’ Test cap number 408 on their playing shirts, and black armbands in honour of their former team-mate.
The team and spectators will be asked to stand for 63 seconds of applause before the start of play in recognition of Hughes’s unbeaten final score.