New Delhi: For those who have followed Virat Kohli’s career so far, one thing that all of them will agree to is that he doesn’t believe in showing any fear or worry in the face of adversity.
When playing against Australia in the summer of 2014, down under, Virat was hit on the head by a vicious bouncer from Mitchell Johnson in the first innings of the first Test at Adelaide. The Indian batsman was shaken by the blow but didn’t show any emotions.
What followed perhaps changed Virat Kohli as a batsman in cricket’s longest format forever. He hit a fluent century (115) in the first innings and then bossed the Aussie bowlers in the second innings, nearly pulling off an improbable victory for India. He had taken the attack to cricket’s ‘Big Brothers’ in their own backyard.
So, when the same man finds himself trailing to the same team at home, after dominating Test cricket for the past two years, what do you think will be his reaction? This question becomes even more pertinent when you take into consideration the kind of playing XI he would go ahead with in the second Test against the Aussies.
If Virat has his way, he might not make any changes to the playing XI. Just as a signal of positive intent, showing faith in his men who have got the better of every opposition they have played so far in this long home season. It would also send a message to the Aussies, that this Indian team is down but not out.
But tactics as we know play a big part in any sport, perhaps bigger than emotions. And a reviewing of tactics in the given situation will serve Virat Kohli and the Indian team management well against a charged up Australian side.
Virat Kohli’s penchant for playing six batsmen and five bowlers is well known. And why not, Test cricket is all about picking up 20 wickets and this formula has served him well. Since taking over as India’s Test captain, Virat Kohli has so far led the team in 14 Tests at home, playing with five bowlers in 9 of those matches. In the remaining five, the team went ahead with four bowlers. Infact, Virat’s India whitewashed the Kiwis at home while playing with four bowlers.
After India’s capitulation against the Aussies in the first Test, the hosts will do well by reverting to the six batsmen, one wicket-keeper and four bowlers theory.
The talented Karun Nair missed out in the first Test despite scoring an attractive triple ton against England in the previous Test. And he could be brought into the side to strengthen the middle-order in place of Jayant Yadav.
Indian coach Anil Kumble spoke to the media before the start of the second Test and hailed Karun Nair for making the most of the limited opportunities he has got so far.
“The beauty about this group (of players) is that whoever has got a chance and come in has done well for the team. Karun Nair is a class act and that has been seen in the short international opportunities that he has got,” Kumble said.
Jayant Yadav, who played a stellar role with both bat and ball against England, was found wanting in both departments against the Aussies at Pune. Yadav bowled just 23 overs in the Pune Test, despite the helpful conditions, picking up only two wickets and gave away 101 runs.
Another possible inclusion, given that the Bengaluru curator has promised a ‘sporting pitch’, could be all-rounder Hardik Pandya. Pandya can bat well down the order and he will provide an added seam bowling option to Virat Kohli. So Pandya being drafted into the playing XI in place of Jayant Yadav is another option that can be looked into
Ishant Sharma too was off colour in the first Test and he could make way for Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who has been waiting in the wings. Ishant, who bowled all of 14 overs in the Pune Test, hardly troubled the Australian batsmen and went wicket-less.
Bhuvneshwar though was ineffective in the one-off Test against Bangladesh. But if the Bengaluru pitch does offer seaming conditions, as promised, we know Bhuvi could be a handful.
The Indian coach though has kept his options open and he mentioned on Thursday that team composition has not been decided yet and all the 16 players have a chance to make it to the final XI.
With the Australians eyeing an unassailable 2-0 lead at Bengaluru, where they have a better head to head record against India, one only hopes that Virat Kohli makes the right choice and opts for a horses for courses approach.