Indian fast bowlers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah took six wickets which put the brakes on Australia at The Kennington Oval, and skipper Virat Kohli praised them for their performances in conditions that weren’t ideal for bowlers.
“It was an outstanding performance with the ball on a good batting track. You have to bowl well. You can't take things for granted,” said Kohli. Indian bowlers kept the Australian top-order in check, especially David Warner who scored his slowest ODI fifty on Sunday.
"Well, we sort of felt like they were a bit hesitant in going for the boundary option, so the communication was very simple: Bowl at good lengths but within the stumps and pitch it up, because as a batsman I know when you're not looking for a boundary option, the last ball you want is a length ball on stumps because you have to play a good short to get a boundary. I just felt like at that stage they didn't want to lose wickets was the mentality that we felt, like they wanted to keep it so they could strike big in the end. But I think that was too big a total to play like that initially," Kohli said about the strategy.
"Look, we were more motivated to win today because of the fact that we lost the series in India, being 2-0 up, and there was no Mitchell Starc, either. So him coming in makes their bowling lineup even stronger. So I think we had to be at the top of our game, as I said, and couldn't have asked for a better game in all three departments, set the tone the way we wanted to with the bat up front, getting a very good opening partnership," Kohli said at the post-match conference on Sunday.
"I got runs, Hardik (Pandya) played outstandingly well, MS (Dhoni) played his role perfectly, KL (Rahul) struck the ball so beautifully. So from that point of view, I think we played a really good one-day game today, something that any team would want to do.
The bowlers were in good form and did their best to stop what is otherwise a strong Australian batting line-up, the Indian team started things off with a solid partnership between Rohit Sharma (57) and Shikhar Dhawan (117).
"Yeah, look, the communication before that was if I get out, MS will come in to control that one end, and if the other guy gets out, if Shikhar got out, Hardik would have stepped in. Exactly what happened, and the communication came from the management that said let's send Hardik and try and capitalise on this because last time we played here against Sri Lanka we got 330 and we lost the game," Kohli said about the management's plan once Dhawan was dismissed.
"And then the fact that Hardik said to me in the middle that me being on the other end gave him the freedom to strike from ball one, and he wanted to strike at 200. That was his plan, and then MS came in and he did the same job beautifully. Yeah, I think that's where management and that communication is very important, also. They understood that this is a phase where we could get those extra runs, and they just sent Hardik, and I think that it was a very, very good plan," Kohli added.
"He (Pandya) knows he's batting really well, and in the past sometimes he tried too hard, but I think what this IPL has done for his batting is that he believes our he knows that he can clear the boundary whenever he wants. So he's not trying to over-hit the ball and he's just timing the ball so well" Kohli said about Pandya.
Finally, Kohli said it's too early to start dreaming about the 2019 ICC World Cup semifinals. "No, I think in my opinion it's too early to decide that. I think after about six games we'll be in a better position to know where we stand in the tournament, where we stand in the table, but we couldn't have asked for a better start against two strong sides" said the Indian Skipper.
Kohli is happy with the start."The good thing is we're playing all strong sides up front, so as I mentioned in Mumbai before we left, if we do well in the first phase, we'll be in a better position to reach the semi-finals. For us it's actually a good thing that we're playing the stronger sides in world cricket if you look at the rankings before the first phase gets over. From that point of view, we have to be at the best, at the top of our game, and precisely what we've done in the two games, and that's why we've won both," Kohli added.
India will face New Zealand on Thursday (June 13) at the Trent Bridge.