Mohali: Calling off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin the team's go-to man ahead of the four-match Test series against South Africa, skipper Virat Kohli said bowlers have always been more crucial than batsmen in cricket's longer format.
Having lost the T20 and the ODI series, India are looking to turn it around in the four-match Test series, starting tomorrow. Kohli hinted that he would go in with five bowlers in the game.
"If we have six batsmen and one wicketkeeper then even if you score 500 runs, but are a bowler short, then more often than not there will come a session when you will give away too many runs and will not get a wicket," Kohli told reporters in the pre-match press conference.
"So, I think the top-five batsmen should take more responsibility of scoring runs. Along with the wicketkeeper, it becomes six batsmen and your all-rounders also contribute," he said.
Stressing on the role of bowlers, Kohli said getting a result is almost always dependent on the bowlers' performance in Test matches.
"I certainly believe that a bowler wins you a Test match.
Batsmen can hardly get you a Test match from a difficult situation, if you are chasing. More often than not, it's the bowlers who eventually out you in that position when you have to chase a small total. So bowlers' role is more important than batsmen in Test matches," he added.
Ashwin, who missed the last four ODIs after suffering a side strain in the opening ODI in Kanpur, will certainly be India's trump card on what seems to be a turning PCA wicket and Kohli couldn't agree more.
"Well for the last two three years, he has been the go to man in Test cricket. He is someone who has done well in conditions that suit the spinners. Even when they suit you, you have to pitch the ball in the right areas and you've seen him take five-six wickets consistently in those conditions.
He's definitely someone who has taken his game to the next level," the Test captain said.
"He wants to do well when we play away from home as well, which is exciting for any captain. The way he bowled in Sri Lanka proved to everyone that he is among the top two three spinners in the world. He is certainly believing in himself a lot more now that he is that match winner for India. He's that main bowler. As a captain, I'm delighted that we have a bowler like Ashwin in our team," he added.
Kohli, who celebrates his 27th birthday tomorrow, said it will be a special day when he takes field in his first home Test as captain.
"It will be an exciting and special for me tomorrow when I take field in my first home game as captain. Secondly it's my birthday as well so it doubles up the excitement for tomorrow," said flamboyant batsman.
"If we get conditions that we have to tackle when we go play away from home, we are judged on that. We never complain, never crib, we take up the challenge," he said.
"We certainly don't believe in looking at these external factors. Whatever is in front of us, we will try and play the best we can and come back as better batsmen and bowlers and keep climbing the ladder in Test cricket and that eventually is our main goal," he said.
Quizzed on the criticism that he faces about his aggressive attitude, Kohli said he hasn't changed much barring the fact that he is not too expressive on the field.
"There has been a lot of criticism about a lot of things in my life. I have never cared about these things. Eventually people can write and say what they want to, it's their freedom of expression, but when I step onto the field I give my 100 per cent every time. And I don't need to prove that to anyone else. I need to walk out to the field with a clear conscience and be satisfied with my effort today.
"So the only thing that has changed is that I have 40 grey hair in my beard and that's the only thing that has changed since I have become Test captain. I am the same person that started playing for India, obviously you do make mistakes and you learn from them along the way.
"It's not that I find those things very wrong but I thought I was wasting my energies on being too expressive on the field at times which I have started to consume and use it in better places. You only get smarter with age and that I think has happened to me as well. That is not something very unnatural. I have not changed in a big way," he added.