Kohli blames team for Galle loss, Mathews 'speechless' by Sri Lanka's performance
Galle: Left to rue India's failure to finish the first cricket Test against Sri Lanka inside three days, captain Virat Kohli on Saturday made no bones about his side's embarrassing capitulation, saying "we got no one to blame but ourselves".
In an extraordinary twist, India capitulated to a 63-run defeat against Sri Lanka, who scripted one of the most remarkable turnarounds in recent Test history.
A disappointed Kohli conceded that his side were to blame for their failure to wrap up the game on the third day itself on Friday when Sri Lanka were at 95/5 at one stage in their second innings before Dinesh Chandimal's counter-attacking 162 set India a tricky victory target of 176. India were all out for 112 in their run chase.
"We got no one to blame but ourselves. We failed to capitalise after taking the first five wickets (in the second innings). We should have finished the game in that session. One bad session and the game can turn, that is how Test cricket is," Kohli said after his side lost the first Test to trail the three-match series 0-1 here.
"Credit to Angelo Mathews and his team. Rangana Herath is an outstanding bowler, he put our batsmen under pressure," Kohli added. (Photo: AFP)
He was also candid about what was lacking in the team in the match, saying that "clarity of thought" and "mental strength" were important ingredients to be successful in international cricket.
"It's clarity of thought that is required in high pressure situations. That's how you differentiate from average players or teams. That's the most important thing we need to learn from today. It does not matter whether you are chasing 170, the thought process has to be clear," a disappointed Kohli said.
"It is easier said than done but as international cricketers we should have the ability to think clearly and need to have that character. And also have those match winning partnerships. It is all about mental strength and we lacked that today."
Asked what went wrong yesterday as India allowed Dinesh Chandimal to play a counter-attacking innings which ultimately set up the match for Lanka, Kohli said, "The idea was to make him block four balls. At most, he can get one boundary in an over. In these situations a lot depend on the bowlers, with what mindset they are bowling.
"The idea was to not let him (Chandimal) score 3-4 boundaries in an over because he was batting really well. There was no point attacking him and give 20 runs every over. It was all about being smart at that stage and at that situation it was the best plan," said the Indian captain.
"All credit to him (Chandimal), he played a very good knock. I am not shocked, he is very talented. He performed for Sri Lanka. He is doing justice to his talent. He is a quality player and certainly has the ability to play like that." (Photo: AP)
Talking about the pitch at the Galle International Stadium, the 26-year-old Kohli, who was leading the side for the first time for a full Test series, said, "The wicket behaved strangely. It looked hard on the first morning. Angelo chose to bat and it started spinning.
"In our first innings it played nicely and we got a good total. We thought the wicket would get more difficult, but the way Dinesh Chandimal and the others batted, it was different and they kept Sri Lanka in the hunt," said Kohli.
A delighted Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews said the turnaround was due to the positive attitude of the players. (Photo: AP)
"What a turnaround, I am speechless. It was a great effort. We had a poor batting performance in first innings but we came back. Chandimal was outstanding, he single-handedly got us to a fighting score," he said.
"The wicket was pretty demanding and we were down and out for three and a half days. We have good quality spinners and it was a matter of just going out there and trying to be positive and bowl in good areas.
"India had three spinners and the wicket was turning quite a lot. We had to play positively, we had to play our shots, sweeps and reverse sweeps," he added.
Chandimal said his improvising shots came good at a crucial juncture for his side.
"It was not an easy wicket to bat on. I tried sweeps and reverse-sweeps. I thought I could put some pressure on the Indian bowlers. I tried to rotate the strike. Credit goes to Sangakkara, Mathews, Thirimanne and Mubarak as well. They batted well. I thought 175-plus might be a good total," he said.
Man-of-the-Match Rangana Herath, who took seven wickets to rock the Indian boat, gave credit to Chandimal for his side's win.
"What a wonderful comeback. Getting out for 183, we had a bad time in the first innings but we recovered well. Chandimal and his partnerships, it was amazing stuff. Before the fourth innings, captain said was this can be a turnaround game," he said.
Asked if there was any change in his bowling approach in the second innings after he was wicketless in the first, he said, "Even last evening I had a chat with our spin coach. We did realise something. That is the reason for this success.
"I am carrying bit of an injury as well. My knees are a bit sore. But you have to give 100 per cent when you are playing for your country. Even at 37 I am competing with the younger guys," said the left-arm spinner.