Galle: India skipper Virat Kohli said he is excited at the prospect of leading the team in his first full series as captain and would like to create the right momentum when they clash against Sri Lanka in the first Test here tomorrow.
"It is my first full series. It's a great opportunity to create some momentum knowing it's a three-Test series, having some plan in mind, having the opportunity and time to execute them," said Kohli at the pre-match press conference.
"Even if it's an off day, you still have time to re-group and think about what went wrong. If it's a good day you can learn from it, the positives and the areas that need improvement. As a captain you always need more time with the team, more games to play and better chances of creating an environment that you require the team to be in. So I am very excited. It's an opportunity not only for me but all of us for a new Indian team. We are all pretty early in our careers and it's exciting," he added.
India haven't won a Test series in Sri Lanka since 1993 when they won the three-match rubber 1-0. But the visiting team's record hasn't been too impressive.
"I have been reminded of that quite a few times and I know that now," he said, about India's poor record.
India's preparations, however, suffered a blow as their pre-match practice session was washed out owing to heavy rains, and even on Monday, their session had been disturbed by the rain, leaving the three-day tour match in Colombo as the only proper workout before this first Test.
But Kohli doesn't seem to be too worried about it.
"It's probably a good thing," said Kohli. "We have had five-six days of really good practice. Even yesterday, with whatever time we had at the nets, the intensity was up there and the guys prepared really well. The day before the game is always a light session. If someone wants to bowl or have a hit, they can. But unfortunately it rained. But I think we have got decent enough practice going into the Test. The guys are looking in good shape and everyone is mentally fresh.
"So it's not going to make much difference. I see it as a positive where people will have the time to visualise, relax and prepare for the game with the mental aspect than putting those extra hours in practice."
India are expected to go in with five bowlers and five specialist batsmen, along with wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha at number six and skipper once again stressed on the importance of taking 20 wickets.
"The basic idea is to take 20 wickets," said Kohli, talking about the six-five strategy. "That's the only way you can win a game. The idea of playing five bowlers is pretty clear. Someone like Saha who is looking to cement his place in the side or R Ashwin who we are looking at as an all-rounder rather than a bowler who can bat, because he has the ability.
"But the responsibility is on the top five batsmen to score the bulk of the runs so that they can take the pressure of these two till the time they feel comfortable and get going in this format," he explained.
"The responsibility is spread equally among all five specialist batsmen. It's not more or less on any one player,"
Kohli said both KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma are hungry to do well.
"KL Rahul is batting brilliantly. He is hitting the ball really well and he got a hundred in Australia. It was sad for him to miss out in Bangladesh. He is hungry to go, someone who really wants to do well and has great attitude.
"Rohit as well wants to do really well in this format. I think the most important for any cricketer is the hunger and after that it's all about the execution which is basically how you apply yourselves," he said.
The Sri Lankan team might be going through a rebuilding phase with many new faces in the side under captain Angelo Mathews, but Kohli felt they were a very competitive unit.
"They are a very competitive team. They might not be as expressive as some of the other teams in the world but the kind of aggression they have in their body language is pretty evident. That's what I have seen over the years that I have played one-day cricket against them. That is one team that has really done well as far as playing well against big opponents or playing in big tournaments in the past few years.
"Sri Lanka are always right up there. You might not count them as favourites when the tournament starts but they are always in the semis or the finals. That's a credit to their attitude and the kind of intensity they bring onto the field," said the captain.
Asked if the Indian team has any specific plans for Kumar Sangakkara, who will retire after the second Test, Kohli said: "The plan has always been pretty basic. Against good quality players around the world you don't need to try something out of the box. It's about creating pressure.
"In the last one-day series we played in India we had one or two plans against him that worked for us. The guys are quite confident about executing those plans. He is someone who score consistently and can get big runs.
It's his last two games and he would like to leave a very significant mark before he goes. So it will be good to get him out early. But it's not going to be easy," Kohli signed off.