Virat Kohli defended the decision of resting R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, citing the workload the two have shared in the last six to seven years, though he admitted that it was quite tempting to play Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav together in every game.
Ahead of India’s first One-Day International in the three-match series against New Zealand, the captain went on to lavish praise on both of his wrist spinners for grabbing the opportunities they had been given. Chahal and Kuldeep have acquitted themselves well in recent weeks.
Kuldeep has quickly emerged as one of the world’s best slow bowlers since taking four wickets in his Test debut against Australia in Dharamsala in March this year. He also played a big role in India’s recent 4-1 ODI series victory over Australia, taking a hat-trick in the second match at Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
Kuldeep has been well supported by Chahal, who tormented the Australians with his deceptive legspin to bag six wickets in four matches.
Kohli, who will be playing his 200th ODI tomorrow, has set his eyes on the bigger picture. “This is something that we need to experiment with, find our best bowling combination before we reach the World Cup stage,” he said on Saturday (October 21).
On adjusting to new ICC rules:
There are a few rules which are very different. The batsman reaching the crease and after that the bat bouncing off being not out. The rule of umpires’ call in DRS. So there are few rule changes which are quite interesting. There is one about catching as well. So I think guys will need awareness about the new rules. They are always difficult to keep a check on initially, but I think we all will get used to it. But it’s a good thing, new regulations will make things much more exciting and bit more professional. You have to keep in mind a lot of things while you are on the field and this just adds to that and helps you focus more on what needs to be done during the course of a game.
“We always had in mind to bring wrist spinners into play. We honestly did not think of playing two together, but they are so good together that it is tempting to play them every game together. Also, we will have to see how much we expose certain bowlers who have played across formats; it’s a rhythm thing. With batsmen, it’s very different. With bowlers, it’s even more difficult because you really need to change the way you bowl according to a format and that can hamper the most important format which is Test cricket for us. It’s been a combination of both – giving guys chances as well as understanding the workloads of bowlers who have played for a while.
“Ashwin and Jadeja have played for last six-seven years, played limited-overs cricket for us regularly. These youngsters have stepped up. It creates a strong pool for us before the World Cup and contrary to a lot of things being said left, right and centre, we understand how the dynamics of the team going forward and that is something which will be hard to explain otherwise. People only count results and right now we are getting results, so we are happy with it.”
One of the biggest talking points before the series has been the exclusion of KL Rahul. The Karnataka batsman was given a go in the middle order in Sri Lanka, where he could only manage 28 runs in four ODI outings. Rahul now has been asked to represent his state in the Ranji Trophy 2017-18 after not getting a single game against Australia in the recently concluded limited-overs series.
While Rahul failed to grab a permanent place in the middle order, Rahane has done more than a commendable job in the absence of Shikhar Dhawan. In West Indies, he averaged 67.20 with one century and three fifties in five innings, all as an opener, after Rohit Sharma was rested. The 29-year-old then sat out once Rohit returned to the mix in Sri Lanka.
Rahane got another opportunity against Australia after Dhawan opted out of the five-match series due to a personal reason, and he went on to score four fifties in five innings. But with Rohit and Dhawan back in the squad, it won’t come as a huge surprise if Rahane once again will be seen warming the benches.
“Well, he has (Rahane) definitely grabbed his opportunities as the third opener, because as I mentioned there was KL Rahul as well competing for the spot,” said Kohli. “But Ajinkya has performed well, he has stood up and taken his chances. That’s how the dynamics of a team work. When you have four guys who play in a similar position, and obviously one of them will have to miss out and even in the three, only two can play in the XI.
“You don’t want to confuse him (Rahane) too much with making him play in the middle order because you need to find your game in ODI cricket. You need to understand how to go about things in ODI cricket and he has always been solid at the top of the order because of his technique and he likes playing there, and it gives him freedom to go after the bowlers.
On Rahul’s exclusion and Karthik’s selection:
We felt KL opens mostly and we don’t want to have a situation like what Ajinkya Rahane was going through in between, having to play in the middle order forcefully because of what the top order was doing. So, we thought that it is better that he gets game time in the first-class level. We have got in Dinesh, who has always played in the middle order, who’s more comfortable and more aware of how to bat in the middle order.
“So we don’t want to confuse him. He is in a happy space and he knows whenever someone who is not going through a good phase or there is an injury coming up, he is there right at the doorstep waiting to play a game whenever the team requires him to. He is pretty happy with his batting at the moment.”
Kohli also said that giving younger and more inexperienced players a go was crucial as India try to build the strongest squad possible for the 2019 World Cup. “We certainly look to give chances to guys who we think have the ability to perform at this level,” he revealed. “It’s not a situation where you just start giving chances to people so much that you compromise on winning the series because of lack of experience. We need to strike that good balance regularly.”
Talking about India’s hectic schedule, Kohli said it’s important to not overtire players and these things need to be figured out in the future. “This is New Zealand’s first ODI assignment after the Champions Trophy,” he concluded. “Resting and recovery is also important for players, sometimes it can be the difference between doing well in a tournament and not doing well. You need to look at other aspects, how many games you are playing, how much rest you are getting, whether you are able to maintain that consistency for 12 months given the number of matches you play. Physically, are you able to keep up with it?
How much ever fitness you do, you need rest. Everyone needs time to come back from training, especially the fast bowlers. We are doing that now with Umesh (Yadav) and (Mohammed) Shami, we want them fresh for the Test season coming up. We don’t want to overtire players, that’s something we have spoken about already. Even some key batsmen need to get some rest in the future weeks because of the important tours that are coming up. We will have to figure out ways to do that, but it’s certainly a thing we need to discuss for the future as well.”