India captain Virat Kohli on Monday said he will return to the team for the series-deciding third Test against South Africa here as he is "absolutely fit" but ruled out the participation of pacer Mohammed Siraj.
The skipper feels that he has been playing for so long across all three formats that people almost took this for granted that he can never miss a match and will play "every game that India plays" which is practically impossible.
Kohli, who missed the second Test because of an upper back spasm, had nets with the rest of the team at Newlands on Sunday. "I am absolutely fit," Kohli said at the pre-match press conference.
ðÂÂÂÂ¬ ðÂÂÂÂ¬ It’s been a collective passion and commitment of the whole squad. #TeamIndia captain @imVkohli on how the side has worked over the years to have good bench strength in the pace attack in Tests. ðÂÂÂÂÂÂ ðÂÂÂÂÂÂ#SAvIND pic.twitter.com/4P19Ffaw3D— BCCI (@BCCI) January 10, 2022
However, he added that Siraj will not feature in the game after he suffered a hamstring injury in Johannesburg, where India lost by seven wickets.
"Siraj is obviously recovering from the (hamstring) niggle he had in the last game and at present, I don't think he is match-ready to take the field in the third Test.
"You cannot obviously risk a guy who is not at 110 per cent as a fast bowler and we know how important that is as the little niggle he had can extend into an injury," the skipper said.
"Siraj is not up to the mark," he added.
However, the skipper did not say whether Ishant Sharma will get the nod ahead of Umesh Yadav.
"As I said, we are yet to sit down, myself, the head coach and vice-captain to decide what we want to do about replacement," he said.
"And I say that because of our bench strength and it's difficult for us to figure out as everyone is bowling well, batting well, these things become a point of contention and we need to have a healthy discussion on a decision on that and just that everyone feels balanced (okay) about it," he explained.
"It was taken for granted that every India game would feature me'
The Indian skipper said that there would have been a point when there would be injuries especially for a person like him who plays every match with highest intensity across three formats.
"Our focal point was to be as fit as possible and to be the fittest version of myself but reality of the situation is that we do play a lot of cricket and there is no denying that.
"My case is an example. As much as I take lot of pride in being absolutely fit at all times, you do take a lot of things for granted about the fact that we are playing three formats and the IPL regularly, is almost a thing taken for granted that I will play every game for India."
He also gave examples of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who in the past few years have suffered a great deal due to injuries and Ravindra Jadeja, who is also having a knee issue.
"Bhuvi played a lot of cricket for 5-6 years straight and Jadeja almost plays every game, these injuries are natural occurrence and quantity has to be looked at with intensity.
"And you want to be at top intensity so quantity becomes important and these things are now being discussed."
As he has said earlier, he wants all boards to look at the calendar and have enough gaps so that all-format players could co-exist and not forced to give up one form of the game.
"But things will improve and boards will create more and more space for people who can play all formats regularly and that's how we can manage it."
"I am at peace with how I am playing and know that will be judged constantly"
Kohli has always made it a point that there are two prisms -- one his own world where he judges himself and other is the outside world which is of little or no relevance to him.
Likewise about not getting a hundred for more than two years isn't exactly bothering the Indian captain.
"Look, thing is I don't look at myself with the lens that outside world looked at me, eventually I am being compared with the standards that I have set for myself," Kohli said.
He said that the contributions he has made for the team and the important partnerships that he has been associated with gives him immense pride rather than hankering for personal milestones.
"They are not occurrence from outside and I take a lot of pride in performing for every team I play and regularly, and I have been able to do that for a long periods of time.
"But you have to understand that in sport some time, things do not go in the way you want them to go but I have realised as a player and batters, I have been involved in important runs for the team in the calender year or so and for me that is a matter of lot of pride."
At one point in an achiever's career, being at peace with one's self matters and Kohli seems to have attained that stage.
"I am at peace with how I am playing and what I have been able to do for the team when there are tricky scenarios. I have nothing else to worry about. Reality is to make impact performance for team and I don't need to prove anything to anyone and when you are in a position, you will be constantly judged," he added.