Virat Kohli’s men have enjoyed the challenge of batting in unfamiliar positions © Associated Press
Virat Kohli will captain his 20th Test match on Saturday and he is yet to field the same XI in consecutive games. Sometimes that choice has been taken away from him – Mohali being the latest example where India’s first-choice wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha will not be available due to injury.
Other times the changes were tactical. The inclusion of Bhuvneshwar Kumar in St Lucia and Kolkata earlier this year on pitches that looked like they would seam is one such instance. There was also the Cheteshwar Pujara v Rohit Sharma debate that dominated the 2015-16 season. Both, India’s players and the management appear to be comfortable with such an environment, where a change in conditions could mean someone’s skills become surplus to the team’s cause.
Kohli explained the horses-for-courses approach was a conscious decision. “This is something that we made pretty clear when we lost the game in Galle [against Sri Lanka in 2015]. After that we had a pretty clear chat that we are going to play people that we think are suitable for different venues.
“Even the batting order changes; I have gone up and down the order as well and other batsmen are keen to do it as well. I think it sends the message across, that the eventual motive is for the team to win.”
While he has always wanted to bat higher, R Ashwin’s success at No. 6 also falls into the category of India’s players taking up the challenge of unfamiliar batting positions.
Pujara made a century as a makeshift opener in seamer-friendly conditions at the SSC in Colombo last year. Ajinkya Rahane made one at No. 3 on a different ground in the same city. Kohli did the same in the Caribbean, moving to one drop after making a double-century at No. 4. Each of them adjusted because India wanted Rohit in their XI.
Still, there is an argument that players might prefer a little job security. Kohli appreciated that his men were willing to look past that.
“Every player needs to buy into the idea and it makes it easier as captain and the management if players agree to it – and they have,” Kohli said. “They have been pretty good with it and that’s why if you see someone stepping in for a game or two, they take it as an opportunity and have actually given match-winning performances.
“It’s not like they are taking the pressure off not knowing whether they will play the next game. It’s all about focussing on that particular game and staying in the present and it has been really wonderful to see it and we just want to carry that forward.”
Parthiv Patel is in such a situation. Coming back into Test cricket for the first time in eight years, he may only play for India till Saha recovers from his thigh strain. At the moment, that is only one match.
“Parthiv understands the situation he’s in,” Kohli said. “I’m pretty glad he respects that and he’s still looking forward to the opportunity and try to make a mark. He knows when we plan to take two wicketkeepers away. This is the opportunity.”
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo