Virat Kohli ‘spoilt for choices’ ahead of second India vs Sri Lanka Test match | india-vs-sri-lanka-2017 | Hindustan Times
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Virat Kohli ‘spoilt for choices’ ahead of second India vs Sri Lanka Test match

Indian cricket team skipper Virat Kohli have a stacked pool of players to choose his final XI from ahead of his team’s second Test match against Sri Lanka.

india vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Jul 31, 2017 12:24 IST
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli, center, leaves the ground with his teammates after their win in the first test cricket match against Sri Lanka in Galle.
Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli, center, leaves the ground with his teammates after their win in the first test cricket match against Sri Lanka in Galle.(AP)

Mere hours after India had wrapped up the first Test at the Galle International Stadium on Saturday, KL Rahul was making his way to the dressing room in full batting gear, after a long hit in the nets. Some time later, Rohit Sharma also followed him after spending hours honing his batting skills. The two were a reminder of the competition for places in the Indian cricket team right now.

Rohit Sharma can vouch for how tough it is to come back into the set-up. And, the middle-order is not even as packed as in India’s previous team when at one time Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman were jostling for the No. 5 spot. Yet after his long injury-break, Rohit is left to wait on the bench for his next chance.

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The player from Mumbai is struggling to get his spot back after three vital half-centuries in his last three Tests. With Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane firmly holding on to their batting positions and Virat Kohli’s confidence in Hardik Pandya, who made an encouraging debut, the fight for a place in the middle order has got much tougher.

This is how competitive the situation gets in a winning combination when everyone is firing. After the first Test, there’s a battery of openers at captain Virat Kohli’s disposal who are jostling for place at the top of the order. It is a completely contrasting situation from the last tour when it became so grim that Cheteshwar Pujara was forced to open in the final Test of the three-game series.

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“We’ve got a fourth guy (Vijay) who’s a regular opener for India who’s not fit. We’ve got all four openers firing now. It’s going to be tough (to pick the two openers) but it’s something that any day you’d like to be in this situation rather than having guys that are not scoring,” said Kohli when asked about his options.

For the second Test starting in Colombo on August 4, Kohli has been left with the welcome headache of picking two out of KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan and Abhinav Mukund. The most experienced and first-choice opener, Murali Vijay, is not even here. If declared fully fit, Rahul should walk into the team, having been the first choice opener and it will most probably be a shoot-out between Dhawan and Mukund.

Mukund is ahead in the pecking order. Picked in the original team, he is the first-choice opener and Dhawan was a last-minute replacement for Murali Vijay. Also, Mukund was brilliant in the crucial close-in catching position, picking up a great catch and a run-out. However, after a blazing 190, Dhawan’s credentials are difficult to ignore.

PACE BOWLING

In the bowling department, the competition is just as intense. Bhuvneshwar Kumar opened the bowling in the last Test against Australia in Dharamsala, picking up the all-important wicket of Steve Smith in the second innings, and then led India’s attack in the Champions Trophy and the West Indies. But, he had to make way for the pace spearhead Mohammed Shami at Galle.

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In spin, Kuldeep Yadav won India the final Test against Australia at Dharamsala with a match-turning four-wicket haul in the first innings. However, the youngster will also have to wait for his chances in this series because Hardik Pandya has started well in the role of an all-rounder. For the team balance, Skipper Virat Kohli prefers Pandya in the fifth bowler’s role.

It is the case of an embarrassment of riches which Kohli can’t really complain about. Most of these guys would walk into the playing XI of any international side at the moment.