The image of a strapping 19-year-old with boyish looks ramming a short incoming ball into the world’s best batsman’s ribcage and forcing him into a mistake stood out on the opening day of the third Test.
Virat Kohli, a cricketer whose talent and steely nerves have turned him into a formidable player, was taught a batting lesson by Alzarri Joseph, whom the Indians may remember as a promising young kid on the warpath in the under-19 World Cup this year.
Unfortunately for India, the talking points were many, though not all positive, more so when a winning side makes three changes to the team. The exclusion of Murali Vijay was a surprise and the choice of Rohit Sharma over Cheteshwar Pujara debatable.
Rohit is the man the Indians preferred over Pujara during the Sri Lankan tour, believing Rohit’s explosive, aggressive approach is the key to India’s pursuit to scaling Test cricket’s summit. Pujara, despite a technique and temperament best suited to the longer format of the game, was made to look a lesser being by some sharp comments by coach Ravi Shastri.
With Anil Kumble at the helm now, it was expected that discretion would be the better part of valour in India’s scheme of things. Instead, India went full steam ahead in changing the composition of the team, indicating that the think-tank is not averse to taking risky and maybe even unpleasant decisions.
Since Shikhar Dhawan is the preferred permanent choice, Murali Vijay, more talented of the two, could not get a place in the squad. Rohit’s selection, given the conditions and his poor record when the bowlers pose problems, was a surprise. Pujara, obviously is thought to be someone whose patient, slow build-up does not fit into Kohli’s world view.
To Kohli’s credit, he pushed himself to bat at No three, something he has been averse to so far. Whether the change in the batting order was necessitated to protect Rohit from facing the fast bowlers when they were fresh or is this going to be the norm, time will tell.
There is no doubting Rohit’s abilities, though he will need to erase the impression that he is a flat bat bully if he wants to cement his place in the Test team. That he has the backing of the team management is a confidence booster but this raises the Pujara question again.
The axing means Pujara will find it extremely difficult to get back into the squad, especially with Murali too waiting in the wings. Whatever the possibilities may be, it does appear that Pujara’s batting style and his staid persona does not jell with this India team.