A healthy competition between Kohli and Smith

There is no doubt that a big score from one is going to fire up the other. That’s, of course, not good news for bowlers but that’s the way it is.

Virat Kohli and Steve Smith are two extremely gifted batsmen of contemporary cricket.   -  V. V. Krishnan

It was no surprise to see India skipper Virat Kohli hit two majestic centuries in the One-Day series against the West Indies. No surprise because he is not only a wonderful batsman and a consistent one too, but also the incentive was right in front of him.

Just days before, Steve Smith had scored centuries in each innings of the first Test match to take Australia to a victory in the Ashes series. Smith rescued Australia from a precarious position of 132 for eight wickets to a score of 280-plus and thus gave a cushion for the fast bowlers to rattle the English batsmen. Smith was making a comeback to Test cricket after being banned for a year by his Board. His performance showed how much Australia missed him during the series against the touring India team earlier in the year where it lost two Tests by narrow margins. David Warner, who also was banned along with Smith, hasn’t quite hit his straps and when he does then the Aussies will have two of their world-class batsmen in top form and are not going to be easy to stop.

Shreyas Iyer’s superb batting in the two ODI wins against the West Indies was thrilling to watch.   -  AFP

Before the ban, Smith was considered as one of the top two batsmen in the world alongside Kohli. As it happens, when two batsmen are being compared there is a healthy competition between them. So Smith’s two centuries in the first Ashes Test were just the incentive Kohli needed to tell the world that he is also around and should not be forgotten. There are two Test matches against the West Indies coming up and one can expect two centuries against Kohli’s name in the series. There is no doubt that a big score from one is going to fire up the other. That’s, of course, not good news for bowlers but that’s the way it is.

Shreyas Iyer’s superb batting in the two wins and his partnership with Kohli was thrilling to watch. Iyer’s smart strike rotation, as he gave the skipper more of the strike while getting set and playing himself in, would have impressed the Indian captain. The way Iyer paced his innings and then accelerated was most impressive though he himself would be disappointed with the way he got out both times. That is something he can learn from his skipper who barely takes chances, yet scores at a good clip. If he does that then he too will score centuries like Kohli.

India don’t play a One-Day International for a couple of months now and it will be interesting to see if Rishabh Pant gets to retain his spot at number four or if Iyer gets to bat ahead of him. Pant’s game is more suited to bat in the final stretch of the innings than when there are more than half the overs still to be bowled. He can be the finisher that his predecessor Mahendra Singh Dhoni was and with more experience and exposure he will win more matches for India.

Two players who could well have played their last games for India are Manish Pandey and Kedar Jadhav. Pandey got out badly in the T20 series and lost his place to Iyer in the One-Day Internationals and with Shubhman Gill waiting in the wings it might be tough for him to hold on to his place. Jadhav is not getting younger and with an eye on the next World Cup the selectors might want to look at someone who can be a part of that squad.

The bowling, too, especially with the new ball, may have a different look about it sooner than later. Any planning needs to start now, though India could also have a new selection committee by November. It’s going to be a packed international season at home for India and therein also lies the chance to plant the seeds of a winning combination for the World Cup in 2023.