The odds were against India the last time they toured Sri Lanka in 2015, but Virat Kohli led the inexperienced side to a comeback win in the test series which changed the team’s mindset, the captain said on Wednesday.
“That tour for us was a landmark tour,” Kohli told reporters before India’s departure for the island country, where the team will play three tests, five one-day internationals and a one-off twenty20 match.
“If you look at the average age of that team a couple of years back… Obviously the players have matured from there on.”
India lost the first of the three-test series against their South Asian neighbours but won the next two matches. They have since gone on to beat West Indies away and registered home victories against South Africa, New Zealand, England, Bangladesh and Australia. Kohli’s men are currently ranked number one in the world.
“That tour for us was start of the belief that we can win, win away from home and we have the side to win away from home.”
India arrived in Sri Lanka in 2015 having lost test series in South Africa, New Zealand, England and Australia, during which long-term captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni retired from the format, handing over the reins to Kohli.
The 28-year-old couldn’t lead India to a win in a one-off test against Bangladesh, and criticism of the team reached its nadir after the loss in the first test against Sri Lanka.
“We showed more belief in our abilities and that we could win from any situation,” Kohli said, referring to the victories in the second and third test.
“That really turned our mindset around. From then on you can see the results.”
India’s preparation has been less than ideal this time, too, with head coach Anil Kumble stepping down last month citing a breakdown in his relationship with skipper Kohli.
Former all-rounder Ravi Shastri was named as head coach last week, while Bharat Arun was appointed bowling coach and Sanjay Bangar was named assistant coach, following Shastri’s recommendations.
Shastri said he will approach his role with a fresh mind.
“Mine will be a refresh button that will be pushed and I will carry on from where I left. I don’t come with any baggage,” the 55-year-old said.
“The team has done exceedingly well over three years and they are the people who deserve the credit more than anybody else. These Ravi Shastris and Anil Kumbles will come and go. The fabric of Indian cricket will remain.”