Virat Kohli has rated India's players eliminating their hunger for personal milestones in favour of the team's cause as a major highlight of his tenure as Test captain.
India sealed the series against England 3-0 in Mumbai with one match still left, and despite what the scoreline suggests they have had to work very hard. They lost three tosses out of four, they have made comebacks with the bat and their bowlers had to be highly disciplined to take wickets on good pitches. Kohli felt getting the better of such difficult situations required a bit of selflessness.
"One thing that I really wanted the team to do was express themselves in Test matches and not think about personal performances," he said, when asked what uncertainties he had when taking over the captaincy and when he thought he had nailed them. "Because a lot of the times, you have an hour in the Test match where you can take the game away and you are still not willing to go for it because you are close to your milestone or things like that. These are the things that we have gotten out of our system completely.
"We just look at the situation and play and that's why we have been in winning positions more often than not. Even with the teams that we have played, we have made quite a few changes and the guys have bought into it. So as a captain that gives you total freedom to play the XI according to the conditions that you are going to play in, and the ultimate aim has been to win games and win series."
The other demand Kohli made of his men was to not be satisfied with winning one Test in a series and sitting on the lead. "That's why we have won five [series] in a row," he said. "And as I said, it's been an outstanding effort by the guys so far. Long it may continue because we are going to play for another eight-10 years, and this mindset needs to continue for us to be a top-quality consistent side."
Considering the effort India had to put in - across three back-to-back Tests - on fair pitches, Kohli believed the 3-0 over England was the team's best result in recent times.
"Out of the five that we've won, this is the best by far," he said. "Because of the quality of the opposition, and the kind of cricket that we've played as well. We're very proud of that, and for me as a captain, this is definitely on top.
"I think the pitches have been far more true than the New Zealand series. That is something that I observed immediately. All wickets have been good cricket wickets and we have had to play good cricket to win these three Tests, and none of the matches have been surrendered by the opposition. We have had to work hard for it, and the bowlers have had to work harder in this series, I feel, to get batsmen out and to control the flow of runs as well. We have used more in-out fields in this series than we did in the New Zealand series so it's pretty evident that the wickets have been better."
Kohli was pleased with how India maintained constant pressure because England, he said, were not going to break down on their own. "We have been put under pressure many times," he said. "I think I would give my team a lot of credit for bouncing back from those tough situations. We haven't got anything on the platter. We have had to work hard for it. And it's been a result of constant pressure that we have forced the opposition to make mistakes.
"With the bat as well we have shown really good character to come back into the game, showing enough patience, more than the opposition, so I would credit my team more than calling it an easy series. No series win is easy, especially not this one. We know England is a quality Test side, and we knew that they would try to bounce back. Even in this game after being 2-0 down, they put 400 runs in the first innings. This is not a team that will throw in the towel. They will fight, and we saw another example of it. We were tested but we came out on top."
One of the key factors in the resilience India have shown with the bat has been Kohli himself. He has made 640 runs in four Tests, scoring a double-century on a square turner in Mumbai, a big ton from 22 for 2 in Visakhapatnam, and a scarcely believable 81 in the second innings when he kept hitting shooters for fours.
Still Kohli cherishes his hundred in the second innings in Adelaide more. Chasing 364, he took India within striking distance of a win, but a collapse in the end left him heartbroken.
"I am still personally very attached to the one in Adelaide in the second innings because that was the beginning of this transition," Kohli said. "This has been an on-going process, so I have only gained from the energy around in the change-room and from the team-mates as well. But this probably can be second-best, in my heart I still rate the one in Adelaide in the second innings higher than the ones I have scored elsewhere.
"This innings was really satisfying. It was a test of patience. Knowing we are 2-0 up, we can't be taking anything for granted going into the last Test. You don't want to leave one Test with the opposition still having a chance to level the series. So from that sense, it was very important to wrap it up here.
"Vijay was going great guns, I was enjoying batting with him but then that collapse happened in the middle. So all sort of things come into your head, whether you're going to be able to reach 400 or if you want to get close to the target. The lead was never in mind at that stage, we just wanted to get close to 400.
"Things shaped up nicely, and then we thought a 40-50 run lead will be great. But eventually, we got 231 of them. That for me was a revelation of me understanding that 'yes, you can bat for longer periods than what you might have thought initially'. If you're focused on what the team needs, you don't realise, you don't feel the tiredness, you don't feel the fatigue. It's all about what the team wants, and in that process, you can go on for longer than what you think otherwise."
An advantage for India in keeping a focus on those small targets was that it helped them not to get dragged into the "revenge series" that the marketing machinery kept building an England tour as.
"That's all for TRPs [ratings]," Kohli said. "I feel all these little visuals that you see on Star [host broadcaster] and TV before the series, a lot of the campaigns are pretty exciting for people to watch actually. They like those sort of things, people talking about the series and saying this one will thrash this one.
"As cricketers, honestly, it's far from what we think about. We understand how the game goes, and how minute these moments can be in Test cricket of winning and losing games. If you focus on that, you're already taking your mind off what you're going to do. These things are just to spice things up for viewers, which is great. It engages fans well, but as cricketers we should understand what to pay attention and what not to. We can't expect these things not to be shown or displayed. It's our responsibility to focus on our job and the viewer should get what they want, which is exciting cricket and the campaign should help things spice up a bit as well."