Ranchi: Lack of hardness in the ball during the middle session was one of the factors why India could not force a win in the third Test against Australia, reasoned captain Virat Kohli.
India went wicket-less in the post-lunch session with Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh frustrating Indian bowlers with their dogged batting.
"When the ball was new last night, it spun well off the rough. Even this morning, it was spinning well. In the middle session, the ball was not hard, so could not generate that kind of pace from the wicket. On day five, wicket slows down, we took new ball later and got a couple of wickets. But the hardness of the ball in the middle session was a factor," Kohli said at the post match press conference.
The India skipper rebuffed suggestions that now momentum was with the visitors who managed to save the game from a precarious position.
"In the first innings, it was not easy for the bowlers because the pitch was good for batting in the first two innings. In the second innings, they really batted well to draw the match. After their 451, we were 328/6, from there to score 600 was very difficult. We put ourselves in a winning position, it was a great effort to be there.
"If you are playing against number two side, you expect they'd also fight back, and won't give away their wickets. It's a matter of individual perception. We're happy where we positioned after them after the first innings, did not have to play the second innings. They were playing for a draw. They'd notice their positives. One match left, both sides would give their best," he said when told that Steve Smith believes the Australians have grabbed momentum.
Kohli described Cheteshwar Pujara as priceless and also hailed Wriddhiman Saha and Ravindra Jadeja in equal measure as the trio put them in a winning position.
"Sometimes I feel really bad for him that people don't understand his importance in this team so much. You know what a valuable player he is for us. He is the most composed player we have in the team. He is willing to grind for his runs, he does not mind batting under pressure, he likes to take the challenge of batting long. Someone like that is priceless to have in the team," the skipper said.
Man of the match Pujara batted a record 525 minutes in his 202 as he along with Wriddhiman Saha's career-best 117 was the cornerstone of India gaining a 152-run first innings lead.
"In pressure situation, he always puts his hand up and plays long for the team and hold up one end, which I think is a great quality. This season he has been outstanding. He has contributed throughout.
"He's not being spoken about or being in the focus too much but I think he deserves much more than that. People need to take notice of what he has done this season. He's been outstanding with the bat and I hope he can continue until the last Test," he said.
Showering praise on the wicketkeeper batsman Saha, Kohli said he's willing to do anything for the team.
"Saha's knock was brilliant for us. He always stood up for us whenever the team needed him. This game was no different. His partnership with Pujara was the reason why we could have a go at winning the Test. A lot of credit goes to him also," he said.
"Again not being mentioned too much, but he deserves a lot of credit. He is one guy who is willing to do anything for the team wherever we asked him to bat he bats. He has no problems in batting, after or before Ashwin. You really feel glad for a guy like him. I'm really happy that he performed in a big pressure match in a difficult situation."
India had another star performer in Ravindra Jadeja who returned with nine wickets and also contributed with the bat with an unbeaten 54.
"Jadeja was outstanding, his economy on this wicket is impressive. He proved why he is joint number one bowler. Whenever Jadeja came to bowl, he picked up a wicket or two every three-four overs. He was hitting the roughs consistently. It was always attacking the batsmen.
Ashwin and Jadeja have both bowled more than 4000 deliveries in Test cricket this season, a number that took Kohli completely by surprise. But the captain insisted that he won't mind pushing his best bowlers to win games.
"How many, how many? Oh..." he said in disbelief. "I did not know, that sounds a lot! We have got to see how many games we want to play them in terms of the shorter formats and going forward if we have a hectic season, because they are very valuable Test bowlers for us.
"That is the only way you can manage workloads because during a game, you can?t think of the fact that he bowled 3000 balls in the season and I need to make him stop because if you want to win a game, you need to push guys. It is different formats when they arrive that is where you can manage workloads and you certainly want to look into it.
"We have done that in the past as well. And that’s certainly going to be followed in the future because you need to maintain a core group of Test bowlers that you need all the time and it is not a difficult thing to do. But yes, one should be aware of that," he said.
Asked whether he would like to change his approach and bat long in Tests like Pujara he said: "I would love to bat that long. Everyone has different style of batting. I would not change mine. You learn and understand a lot of things from different players all over.
Kohli hailed the Aussie batting for their rearguard action.
"I don't want to take away any credit from them, because they batted really well. They were four down at lunch, credit to them that they did not lose another wicket in the following session. We're happy with our effort."