Sunday will mark the beginning of Virat Kohli’s era as he takes over as Team India’s leader in all three formats after MS Dhoni stepped down as captain of limited-overs teams earlier this month.
Kohli will get goosebumps with the vociferous crowd in the backdrop when he walks out for the toss with England skipper Eoin Morgan in the first match of the three-ODI series at the MCA Stadium here.
Kohli’s biggest challenge as limited-overs skipper would be matching the benchmark set by his predecessor. And that will begin with the Champions Trophy to be played in England in June.
While the tournament may still be five months away, Kohli has only the England ODI series to figure out the best combination.
“At the international level, no game is a trial game. I don’t believe in that. You go out there to win every game. We are taking these three matches as knockout games because we need to prepare for the Champions Trophy and we need to be in the right frame because the tournament is very competitive and very quick. So we need to be at our best from the first game of the series because we have only these three games to prepare.
“We are not going to experiment much. We are going to find the right combination from Game One and then stick to it till the Champions Trophy,” said the new skipper in his first press conference after taking over the reins from Dhoni.
Although India will encounter different conditions at the Champions Trophy, the three-ODI series at home will provide Kohli a glimpse of the areas that need to be tightened up.
Apart from figuring out the opening combination --- Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane are the options for this series, he will also have to fix the middle order which is another area of concern.
It is learnt that Dhoni is set to bat at No 5. By bringing back Yuvraj Singh, the selectors expect more firepower in the middle order. Dhoni and Yuvraj had scored half-centuries in the first warm-up match against England at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai.
Kohli acknowledged the need to strengthen the middle order. “Yes, that is something we have discussed before picking Yuvi because we cannot leave so much burden on MS alone in the middle order. I am willing to shoulder responsibility up the order, but there needs to be one more guy with him down the order. If the top order doesn’t fire, you are left with MS alone guiding the youngsters. It would have been fine if you had 15-20 games till a big tournament, but when you have only three games to prepare for a big tournament, I think you need to get all your resources in place. You need to make sure the guys who have been picked are in good form.
“So right now we don’t have the time to nurture that one spot as much because we have a big tournament coming up straightaway, that’s why Yuvi was brought into the team. This just gives the team much more balance in the middle and lower-middle order. MS and Yuvi can really guide Kedar (Jadhav) and Hardik (Pandya),” said Kohli.