The pace attack that refuses to give in, and keeps on giving

Four years ago, Virat Kohli sat in front of the media in the basement of the SCG lamenting how his fast bowlers weren’t stepping up with performances consistently. He also spoke in awe of how a young Josh Hazlewood had come into the series and shown the kind of composure and character that he as the new leader expected from his bunch of pacers. It was his first Test after taking over as captain officially – he’d led India in the opening Test in Adelaide as a stand-in. It was at the back of yet another series defeat. It was at the end of another tour to Australia where India’s fast bowlers had come up short. They’d also come up against a rampaging Steve Smith and David Warner. How Kohli had summed up his pacers’ plight back then makes for interesting reading now.
“You need composure and character to go out there and say, I’m tired, but I need to take two wickets for my team, so I need to bowl at the same pace as my first spell. That’s where character counts. When you’re tired and you’re down and your team expects you to step up. We need guys stepping up with more performances like that to win Test matches. Those crucial moments after tea, at the end of a day’s play, we need to strike and we haven’t been able to. It’s to do with wanting to bowl that second and third spell for the team and that’s something we need to consistently work on, tell the guys to step up and bowl their hearts out for the team eventually,” he had said.
Now, fast forward to Kohli sitting in front of the media in the basement of the MCG on Sunday (December 30, 2018). He’d just become the first Indian captain in 37 years to win a Test in Melbourne. He’d just become the first Indian to take an insurmountable lead in a series Down Under. He’d just taken his team to within one win or a draw from becoming the first-ever from India to win a series here. And he couldn’t stop raving about his fast bowlers. For, they deserved to. Yes, they hadn’t come up against a rampaging Steve Smith and a David Warner. But that’s not on them. What they had done is, they’d shown both composure and character in copious amounts, they’d bowled with the same pace and intensity in each spell-from first to last – and they’d bowled their hearts out for their team, over and over again. Going into the third Test, they had bowled more overs than their Aussie counterparts. But still in Melbourne, they picked up their tired bodies, stepped up to the plate and won the Test for their team. They did everything their captain had yearned for when he took over, just like they’ve done all year long.

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