Making the right noises about his teammates, Virat Kohli may have won them over. Usually, captains are guarded while talking about the abilities of individual players. Not Kohli, he speaks his mind out to reveal his strategy and the men he needs to carry it out.
The media has realised that the India captain, who is leading the team on his first full tour to Sri Lanka, is articulate and can give good copy. They got a lot to write and interpret about as he spoke on the eve of the team’s departure, leaving no one in doubt that he is firm in his beliefs.
He is clear who he will ask to bat at crucial No.3 position and why he needs to play five bowlers to win Test matches, hinting he could even go in with three spinners. By the end of the pre-tour media conference he has left no one in doubt that he is the boss and will operate on his own terms, whatever the selectors, directors and coaches may think of him. Yet, he might have discussed his plans when the selectors sat to pick the squad.
Kohli in no uncertain terms stated that in his scheme of things, Rohit will bat one drop and reasoned out saying that the Mumbaikar is a game changer and he can do it in one session of his batting. A good start by the openers will allow Rohit to bat freely and he will also be able to negotiate the new ball if the need arises as he opens in the one-dayers. Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane to follow, the top five batsmen must get 300 plus so that the so-called all-rounders can hold the innings at the lower end. In the captain’s game plan, if the top order comes good he can play five bowlers on a regular basis to get 20 wickets needed for victory. For that to happen, Wriddhiman Saha at No.6 will have to concentrate more on his batting as his glove work is near faultless, though he is nowhere near MS Dhoni’s class as a batsman.
Does Kohli’s “assigning responsibility to players” mean promoting Ravichandran Ashwin to the key position of six in the order with the message that he is in the team as a genuine all-rounder?
If Ashwin’s position is settled then the question arises of accommodating Harbhajan Singh in the eleven. Kohli has opened so many of his cards before leaving on the tour that it would make it difficult for him to discard any.
He has also hinted at playing three spinners, probably after seeing how top-flight tweakers can get assistance from the Sri Lankan pitches. Ideally, playing the leg-spinner is a must to bowl with Ashwin but can he leave Harbhajan out after specially asking for him? Kohli may have landed himself in a bit of jam and to wriggle out of it he might play all three available spinners to justify his philosophy.