Kohli’s flexibility stretched in musical chairs of Indian batting order

  • Pradeep Magazine, New Delhi:
  • Updated: Aug 14, 2016 15:09 IST
India's captain Virat Kohli, left, and Ajinkya Rahane, right, leave the field after beating West Indies by 237 runs on day five of their third Test in Gros Islet, St. Lucia, on Saturday. (AP)

The West Indian resistance on the final day of the Kingston Test, like often in the past, turned out to be a false dawn. It was a downpour of wickets as Virat Kohli’s men achieved what was expected of them before the Tests began, a comfortable cruise to a series win.

Regardless of the result and the overwhelming Indian superiority, this Test raised interesting questions about team selection. Though enough has been written on the subject, it still remains the talking point, as was obvious from Kohli’s post-match press conference. The very fact that the Indian captain had to offer explanations and defend his decisions means that this is an area India is willing to be open about. There obviously is considerable thought going on behind whom to select, whom to drop and, more importantly, when and in what conditions.

The Pujara-Rohit musical chairs and now Murali Vijay too becoming part of this puzzle, is one which probably concerns India the most. Have we already found a lasting solution in discarding one at the expense of the other, or is there still a possibility of there being a place for both in the team? The answer, as of now, is that both can’t play together. And it would be unfair on Rohit, now that a decision has been made in his favour, that he once again be discarded on the basis of one more failure.

Kohli, unlike many, or one would be tempted to say most captains in the past, is a more forthcoming man and does respond to even difficult questions without losing his cool. In this aspect, he has shades of Sourav Ganguly in him, who too would be more patient with journalistic queries than most Indian captains generally are.

The most interesting and may be more lasting impact these changes in the team have are on the captain himself. It was generally believed that the number 4 batting slot is the preferred choice of the Indian captain. Though most would have liked a batsman of his versatility to play at Number 3, Kohli persisted to bat at his favourite position. As flexibility emerges a key component of India’s team strategy, Kohli admitted that the batting order is not sacrosanct and that includes his as well. To prove that point, Kohli batted at number 3 in this Test so that Rohit could bat at number five and provide the fire-power which the team expects of him in the latter part of the innings.

This sacrifice of self-interest, if it can be called so, speaks well of the captain and should raise his stature as a leader in the team. What it also does is put too much pressure on Rohit as he is the beneficiary of this generosity and the sooner he delivers the better it would be for him. His success would also silence all those who find no merit in this move and believe Pujara is being treated unfairly.

From purely Kohli’s own batting perspective, will another failure at the Number 3 spot, as it happened in this Test, still make the captain stick to the same batting order? Or does flexibility have a limit?

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