Spotlight on Virat Kohli, but Team India have eye on Cup
After seven years, Virat Kohli, when he takes the field at Boland Park in Paarl on Wednesday, will be doing so only as a senior player of the Indian team, not as its captain.
His inputs will still matter, that’s something that both KL Rahul and Jasprit Bumrah, captain and vice-captain for the series, have emphasised. But how the team adapts to the change and whether the issue of Kohli’s high-profile resignation as the Test captain snowballs into being a distraction or not, those are the questions to which we will hopefully find answers in the next few days.
Make no mistake, it’s also about how Kohli deals with the current situation. A thorough professional and someone who has always set the highest standards for himself, it’s expected that the scenario will not be bugging Kohli and he would play a lot more freely as a batsman without any baggage whatsoever. That said, circumstances are different this time around.
This is the first time in his international career that Kohli has been under such pressure. Not being on the same page with the BCCI brass as well as selectors has only doubled the pressure on the former captain, who has been going through a lean patch with no centuries for over two years.
No wonder a sterner test awaits Kohli. But to be fair to India, they do have the wherewithal to win the ODI series even if Kohli doesn’t score big. Looking forward to next year’s 50-over World Cup, the new Indian team management too will be looking to experiment with certain aspects, which could help them find out where exactly the side stands.
“This year, we’ll be playing a few ODI series, which will give us a chance to try out new things,” captain Rahul said on Tuesday.
“We have some ideas and plans. We want to try out those things in the coming series. “That will give us an indication if we’re doing it right, and whether our strategies and tactics are right. We aren’t a team that’s scared to try”
Spin duo & 6th bowler
India are also banking on their spinners to do the job in the opening ODI as the Boland Park track promises some assistance in terms of spin bowling. “We’ve practised at Boland Park and the pitch does look like it might offer a lot more for spinners than what we got in the Test series,” Rahul said.
That implies Ravichandran Ashwin is set to make a comeback in the ODI team after more than four-and-a-half years, with seasoned leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal likely to be the second option.
All-rounder Venkatesh Iyer, after a successful IPL stint with the Kolkata Knight Riders in IPL 2021 and following that up with plenty of runs in domestic cricket, will also be having an important part to play as the sixth bowler, Rahul acknowledged.
Shikhar Dhawan, in all likelihood, will be opening the innings alongside Rahul in the ODIs. But what happens when regular white-ball captain Rohit Sharma returns?
It will thus be imperative for Dhawan to perform in these three ODIs and remain in India’s scheme of things. “Shikhar is in a great space and has come out here and is having fun, enjoying his cricket. As a captain, it will be about trying to keep him in that space and giving him that confidence to go out there and do what he has been doing,” Rahul said.
For the Proteas, the job becomes tougher for their bowlers, particularly as spearhead Kagiso Rabada has been rested for the series “due to high workloads over a sustained period of time” and also to keep him fit for South Africa’s away Tests versus New Zealand next month.
(Match starts: 2pm (IST). Live on Star Sports)