Virat Kohli, since his success at the under-19 World Cup in 2008, was tipped to reach great heights. Over the years, the aggressive batsman hasn’t disappointed.
Now, as he leads India to the tour of Sri Lanka — his first full Test series as skipper — Kohli is eyeing something more, his own space in the nation’s collective memory of great captains.
Kohli, for sure, is a man in a hurry.
Ambitious as he is, Kohli has already identified the canvas to paint his masterpiece — Rohit Sharma. Of course, Sharma has already established his name in Indian cricket as an excellent limited-over batsman under the captaincy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Kohli now wants to add a dash of white to it, for he wants to be the man to have finally converted Sharma to a great Test batsman. There is also the small matter of redefining the role of No 3 in Indian Test cricket.
“We figured out that Rohit is an impact player. In one-day cricket, he bats up the order, and he had a different aspect when it came to Test cricket, as he is batting at No 5…at 6 actually. It was off the kind of setup he had played in one-day cricket,” said Kohli during a press interaction before the team’s departure to Sri Lanka.
Sharma would now be India’s No 3 Test batsman. “We felt that if he gets going, even in a Test match, he can take away a session or two from the opposition. That could be the difference in us winning a Test match and getting close (but not close enough),” said Kohli.
“He had done well at No 3 in Australia and I think he needs more time there. Once he settles down there, he could be the catalyst in the middle order to keep the score ticking. He is so naturally gifted that we want to give him the opportunity to get us that big score, and in quick time. He doesn’t take much time to score, and that would give us the extra 20-30 overs to bowl (the opposition out later),” said Kohli.
“He is pretty happy (with the move) as well. Being in the dressing room for long is something he is not used to in one-day cricket, and hence going into the action straightaway, more often than not, will help. That’s all we need, players being happy with the positions they would be in,” the skipper said.
It is no doubt a high-risk strategy by Kohli, for Sharma is not known to be the most reliable; and India do have players such as Cheteshwar Pujara in the ranks. But Kohli is not someone to back down.
On his part, Sharma said he is happy to do what has been asked of him. “I’m someone who has so far been asked to bat in different positions, and have done that without any issue. But it is true that in one-dayers I have established my position as an opener. In Tests it (a secured position) hasn’t happened so far,” said Sharma.
“Now I have been told that they want someone to dominate at No 3. That was one of the reasons given to me when I was asked to bat at No 3,” he added.
Sharma, however, added that No 4 is the spot he is more comfortable with. “Middle order is where I have always batted, No 4 in fact. That is where I have played for Mumbai over the years. But now we have a scenario where the captain (Kohli) himself is at No 4, so we have to adjust,” he added.