Consistent performances in the build up to the World Cup ensured 22-year-old Virat Kohli a slot in the Indian line-up even after the seniors returned for the quadrennial event.
Kohli hit hundreds against Australia in Visakhapatnam and New Zealand in Guwahati and followed that with a good show in South Africa. That sealed the Delhi player a berth in the World Cup winning squad.
Now, as India try to rebuild after a disastrous tour of England, Kohli is the mainstay of the Indian batting in the absence of Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh. He was unfortunate when Kevin Pietersen pulled off a brilliant catch on the ropes in Hyderabad to cut short an innings that was looking to blossom.
With the Indian think tank wanting Gautam Gambhir to come in at No 3 to make up for the lack of experience down the order, Kohli has a key role to play, of trying to bat till the end.With six hundreds in 65 ODIs, the last of which came in Cardiff, Kohli has the right mix of control and aggression that could be the key in this series, especially with the new Powerplay rules that demand a top-order batsman stay on for the hitters to make the final 10 overs, without field restrictions, count.
When he is asked about the inexperience in the side, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni starts talking about his bowlers. That in a way is a compliment to Kohli, whom the think tank already feels a part of the bigger picture. “We want to groom the youngsters so that they are able to perform not only in India but abroad also,” Dhoni said, after winning the opener in Hyderabad.
For Kohli, the opportunity that India's new-look side provides is very exciting. “It's a very young team and it's really exciting the way we played the first match,” he said on Sunday. “If you can perform well against a strong side like England, it is a great confidence booster for the youngsters and they can be ready whenever they get a chance in future as well.”