Virat Kohli had a very successful first series as India’s limited-overs skipper. Kohli led the India cricket team to a 2-1 win against the England cricket team in the ODI series, though he, and the team, would be a tad unhappy not to have whitewashed the visitors with a victory in the third match in Kolkata on Sunday.
The Kolkata ODI was India’s last before their ICC Champions Trophy outing in June in UK. Virat Kohli’s team would be playing Test matches and T20s against Australia (February-March) and Bangladesh (one-off Test in February) before disbanding for the 2017 Indian Premier League (IPL).
So, the three matches against England were the last chance for the Kohli-MS Dhoni (the old skipper still has a lot of say on field) Indian leadership to try out the players and the combinations.
But, wouldn’t defending champions India be underprepared for the big ICC tournament in England, going into it by just playing Tests and the IPL?
Virat Kohli thinks otherwise. In fact, the skipper thinks playing in the IPL will prove to be an advantage.
“The more T20 matches we play, we will get better at death bowling in ODIs,” Kohli said after the match in Kolkata.
“That will be our advantage. As far as batting is concerned, obviously the one area we look to focus on is to maintain our batting techniques and using T20 and ODI as extension of our Test batting.
“That means not to get reckless and slog every ball. It is very important to understand how to score in competitive conditions. Focus will be on not wanting to overdo things.”
Apart from the “advantages” of just having the IPL to test his players, Kohli would be looking at the England series to assess the pros and cons before the squad selection for the Champions Trophy. And, he does have a lot of positives from the three matches, starting with young Kedar Yadhav and the veteran Yuvraj Singh.
“Very pleased to see Kedar (Jadhav) bat the way he did, very pleased with what Hardik (Pandya) did with bat and ball, very pleased to see Mahi (MS Dhoni) and Yuvi (Yuvraj Singh) bat that way in Cuttack and what Bhuvi (Bhuvneshwar Kumar) did with the ball there,” said Kohli.
“Bhuvi pulled it back for us when it was difficult to grip the ball. These guys have shown character and that for me is a big positive. I think I can take away a lot of positives (from the series).”
Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni turned the clock back in the second ODI in Cuttack, the southpaw stroking a career-best 150 while the former India skipper made 134. Their record 256-run partnership pulled India out of early trouble towards a match-winning total.
Bhuvneshwar, on the other hand, stood up and performed when his captain needed him the most, at the death overs during the England chase.
England needed 22 off the last over to win the second ODI and Kohli called up Bhuvneshwar Kumar and it was not a surprise move. Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar were saved for the death overs as England went for a historic chase of 382. Despite having a wet ball in his hand, Bhuvneshwar didn’t disappoint. A clever mix of fuller balls and wide yorkers scripted India’s 15 run win.
In England, Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar and Hardik Pandya playing the role of a fast-bowling all-rounder, would give India an advantage.
“Pandya helps in balancing the team,” said Kohli. Allows you to play that extra batsman, two seamers and two spinners. He bowled really good in the matches, one of the few bowlers who hit the deck hard (especially in Kolkata) and got more purchase. He showed good instinctive ability with the bat too. He is getting smarter and more intelligent with the bat. He understands the importance of rotating the strike and when to hit boundaries. He brings great balance to the side.”