“The chopping and changing can work in the sub-continent because the home conditions, where India are a far superior side than any other team in the world”
By his own admission, Virat Kohli, as a captain, has always been a believer of the horses for courses theory. In the 36 Tests in which he has led India, the think-tank has fielded 36 different playing XIs. Kohli is more inclined to pick the individual, who he thinks is most suited to the conditions. To implement his theory even he is not hesitant to drop the un-droppables like he did with Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the Centurian Test earlier this year. And a similar trend has been followed, when it comes to white-ball cricket as well. Keeping Kuldeep Yadav out of the team at Bristol is the latest example of this unconventional thought process.
But, his moves have produced results. So, we should not panic, right?
Horses for courses is fine but the best horses win on all kinds of courses.
Maybe Kohli knows some formula which rest of the world doesn’t, but always tinkering with the team combination doesn’t provide the right message to his teammates. Just think about the confidence level of Kuldeep, when the team management told him that he is not in the playing eleven in the series-decider at Bristol. Remember, with his five-for, he was England’s nemesis in the tour opener at the Old Trafford. One bad game in Cardiff and he was out of the XI.
Whereas according to the Indian think-tank, they were not ready to take a risk with him due to the conditions and field dimensions. Well, this justification sounds similar to those old-school thoughts when captains did not want to bowl leg-spinners when a left-hander is on strike.
Going into the three-match One-Day International (ODI) and the all-important five-Test series in England, Kuldeep’s unorthodox left-arm wrist-spin is expected to be India’s trump card. Arguably on this tour, he is expected to India’s best option in the spin department across all three formats. But, if the captain and the team management believe, he can’t perform on non-helpful conditions, the moral of youngster certainly takes a downward plunge. Next time, most probably in the ODI series, when Kuldeep will bowl, he will be more concerned about keeping his economy rate in check, rather than going for wickets in the middle over, which is his strength.
In fact, not only Kuldeep, this applies to any member of the team.
Every cricketer wants a consistent run to prove his worth. But in this Indian team, apart from a few senior pros, others have no certainty regarding their place in the XI due to this a royal merry-go-round. Amid such circumstances, we might see someone like KL Rahul, who is considered as the ‘next big thing in Indian cricket’ may not get to play all the games, irrespective of his performance or someone like Cheteshwar Pujara losing his place in India’s starting XI for the Birmingham Test considering his less productive overseas record.
But, in our part of the world, it is all about the results. India are currently ranked No. 2 in ODIs and No. 1 in Tests. Hence, in this world of stats-driven cricket journalism, there won’t be any criticism of Kohli and the rest of the team management for this bizarre ideology.
“Whoever plays should be good enough to go out there and do the job for the team. That’s why we’ve got such a big squad because we believe in their abilities and they are good enough to be at this level,” this is what Kohli had to say in Centurion while defending his theory.
Well, the chopping and changing can work in the sub-continent because the home conditions, where India are a far superior side than any other team in the world. There, as a captain, Kohli can experiment to try out different combinations. But, it shouldn’t be recommended when you are playing overseas.