Virat Kohli: 'Ready to bat at No.4 for the team's cause'

India skipper Virat Kohli on Friday said that he is willing to bat at No.4 for the sake of the team ahead of the first ODI against Australia in Hyderabad.

Virat Kohli at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad on Friday.   -  AP

India skipper Virat Kohli on Friday said that he is willing to bat at No.4 for the sake of the team ahead of the first ODI against Australia in Hyderabad.

India head coach Ravi Shastri had earlier indicated that the team management might slot Kohli to bat at No.4 and the skipper insisted that his game will not change. “If that’s the requirement of the team at a particular stage in the game or before a particular game, I’m more than happy to do it. I’ve batted a lot of times at No 4, so I don’t necessarily need to try it out because I’ve done that a lot of times in the past.

“My games don’t change from No. 3 to No. 4 because the template is quite similar. In any given situation, I back myself to play the game that I know. If the team wants it at any stage, I’m more than happy to do it,” Kohli said at the pre-match conference.

The five-match ODI series gives the Indian team a real chance to experiment with players ahead of finalising the squad for the World Cup.

READ: Injury scare for MS Dhoni ahead of first ODI

When asked if the upcoming IPL will decide the few spots remaining, the skipper said, “No, I don’t see IPL having any influence on World Cup selection. I  think that will be very very radical sort of analysis. We need to have a solid team. Before we head into the IPL we need be absolutely clear of what team we want for the World Cup. I don’t see anything changing of how the IPL goes for any of the players. If one or two players doesn’t have a good IPL season, it doesn’t mean that they are out of the picture for the World Cup. Those things are not going to matter.”

Spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav are definitely part of the World Cup squad but Chahal’s recent dip in form hasn't bothered the skipper. In the recently concluded T20I series, Chahal managed to pick just one wicket and was on the receiving end, especially during the second T20I where he leaked 47 runs in four overs. Kohli, however, defended his spinner.

“I don’t know if you have seen the numbers. If that performance is not good, then, I don’t know what is good. Look it really depends on the opposition we are playing against. It’s simply which of the two bowlers are effective against the opposition batsmen. If conditions are seaming then obviously it will be more pace dominated with Hardik (Pandya) who is the all-rounder in the team. It’s all about the combinations.

“I don’t see one ahead of the other in the pecking order. I think both of them (Chahal and Kuldeep) together are the strongest spin bowling partnership in the world at the moment. That’s something that I’m happy about and the team is very about as well. Our success over the last couple of years is mainly because of these two guys and the impact in the middle overs and their ability to pick up wickets for us. I think both have been outstanding and their performances have been brilliant."

Virat Kohli addresses the media in Hyderabad on Friday.   -  AFP

 

India lost the T20I series at home and while Kohli said that the focus remains on winning the series, the team management is willing to 'experiment' with some players.

“We are playing to win the series, else I’ll leave the ball to hit the stumps. As I said earlier, if we want to see how a few guys play in a certain situation, we’ll make play them again in that situation. It’s not like if a guy is not playing in a certain situation, he doesn’t have the ability. We could not win the T20 series because in the first match we didn’t play good cricket and in the second match, Australia played better than us.

“I think it’s important you understand why we lost. From outside, it’s easy to say, they don’t have the heart to play. We always want to win games for India. If we only had to experiment, we would have got out for 50 as everybody would have got out trying to hit sixes. All of you’ll need to understand, what are we striving for. As a team what we are supposed to do, we will do. That 1-2 positions that are vacant, we will continue to experiment to solidify it. We always want to improve as a team."

When asked if the 0-2 loss in the T20I series will have a bearing on the ODI series, Kohli explained, "It’s done. As I said, it’s a short series and Australia played better than us and they deserved to win the series. So, we will have to be at our absolute best to win this particular series and start well in this series.

READ: 'Finch will come good, just need to be patient'

So, as far as I see it there’s always an opportunity for a team to come back stronger and show character. In a big tournament like the World Cup or any big series, you have to keep coming back. It’s now like you win all the games. So, all the guys are really excited and looking forward to do that. Doing the basics right, streamlining their minds to read situations and do what’s required for the team and do it well. So, as long as you take these things as an opportunity, you’re heading in the right direction and we definitely want to be at our best to win the series.”

While the skipper had insisted that wicket-keeper batsman Rishabh Pant will be given more 'game-time', Kohli was against the idea of going with a bowler short.

“We will have to think about the combinations, I don’t think playing a bowler less is a good idea. Because with the extra fielder in till the 40th over it becomes very difficult to sort of get few guys to chip in with a few overs here and there. We will have to work out the batting combination to try and give game-time to the guys we want to. But, I don’t see the bowling combination changing," he said.

KL Rahul was out of form but found the sweet spot of the bat in the T20I series and the skipper is happy with the way the India opener has turned things around. “It augurs really well. KL when he plays well is operating at a different level I feel and we’ve seen him do that in the IPL last year and in patches over the last season we played as a team. Hopefully, he can keep batting like that. It’s very difficult to find a consistent player who can find good cricketing shots and still win you games and strike at over 140 or 150.

"He has all the shots and has a solid game as well. Hopefully, he can build on us and get as many games under his belt, playing as much cricket as possible. And then it will be interesting to see what happens in the final World Cup squad. Definitely, he has made a strong case for himself. It’s good he’s in great nick and hopefully he can carry it forward," he said.

Saturday marks the 11th anniversary of U-19 2008 win. Your thoughts...

"That’s a long time ago. The one thing that I remember from that time was we always had the belief we could do that. And defending a small total we were able to win the final. That was something that always pleased me a lot. Because we were a team that was unbeaten in the tournament and suddenly in the final we were taken by surprise. But, still to pull ourselves together and pull the game back and win was something that thought a lot of us a lot of things in the final about our character, about our belief.

"The only thing that I’ve carried forward from that time is the belief. If you don’t have that belief you’re always struggling to make things happen. If you believe you can make things happen, you can start working in that direction. I think that’s probably the basic thing for any sportsman or sportswoman playing at the highest level," Kohli, who led India's U-19 team to World Cup glory in 2008, said.