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Virat Kohli’s ‘no-retention’ policy pays rich dividends for India

cricket Updated: Oct 08, 2016 08:39 IST
Kushal Phatarpekar
Kushal Phatarpekar
Hindustan Times
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Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli during a practice session in Indore. (PTI Photo)

As India look to complete another series under Virat Kohli’s captaincy, another change in the playing eleven is most likely, given the skipper has never stuck to the same XI in his short reign.

Under Kohli’s leadership, India have not played two successive games with the same XI. The third Test between India and New Zealand will be the 17th consecutive game this trend will continue.

Since December 2014, when Kohli inherited the Test captaincy from MS Dhoni, through injury or tactical necessity, India have invariably changed their first team. In August this year, Kohli made his thoughts about constant change clear. He emphasised that changes in playing eleven were not an issue for him or his side.

“Usually if you see, very few people like change. This team doesn’t think how others would react or what they might say,” he had said. And Kohli has followed this theory to its practical end every time he has led India on to the field.

In the first Test, pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar was kept out of the playing XI, despite having picked up a five-wicket haul in his previous series in the West Indies. Umesh Yadav had played then, only to be dropped in the second Test to make way for Bhuvneshwar, who surprisingly paid rich dividends, scalping a five-for.

In the third Test, Bhuvneshwar will once again sit out, but this time due an injury. Injury has been the biggest bane for India in the last two Tests of the series. At top of the order, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul are both absent for the final Test through injury, sealing another Test where India will see a change in combination.

Unlike captains of yore who emphasised the importance of a stable side, Kohli has gone in the opposite direction. Change seems to be his biggest asset.

In 16 Tests as captain, he has lost only two. The change in coaches has not mattered at all. In fact, the experiments have become even bolder since Anil Kumble came on board.

The musical chairs has become commonplace at the top of the order, with every batsman, struggling to cement their place, vying for the slots. A similar fate awaits the pace department, which has been alternating between Bhuvneshwar and Umesh in nearly every match.

At Indore, Kohli will have another opportunity to experiment. Injury has meant there will be two automatic changes in the opening slot with Gambhir most likely coming in, and a replacement coming in for the injured Bhuvneshwar.

Having won the series 2-0 and reclaiming the No 1 spot in the ICC Test rankings, who knows what’s on Kohli’s mind. With a young Karun Nair and Shardul Thakur waiting to make Test debuts, the skipper has new subjects for his experiments.