Kohli hints at four-bowler plan, wants openers to take responsibility

India takes on West Indies in the first game of the two-match Test series at the Sir Viv Richards stadium in Antigua and captain Virat Kohli addressed the media ahead of his side's World Test Championship opener.

Indian captain Virat Kohli, a firm believer of playing five bowlers in Tests, has hinted that his team might field only four in the first test versus West Indies, which will begin on Thursday.   -  Getty Images

India is likely to go into its World Test Championship opener with a four-bowler strategy, hinted skipper Virat Kohli on the eve of the first Test against the West Indies on Wednesday. A lively pitch was dished out in the last Test played here between the West Indies and England.

“We could not look at the wicket as it was still covered. After looking at the pitch, it is more or less a choice between three quicks and a spinner or two quicks and two spinners. The last time England played here, pitch had quite a variable bounce so all those factors come into play. But we are very flexible and open at the moment,” Kohli said.

Kohli has always been a big advocator of playing five bowlers as he feels the key to winning Test matches is taking 20 wickets. India will be playing its first Test in more than seven months. India’s last series was a memorable one as it beat Australia for its maiden Test series win Down Under.

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Kohli said the triumph remains fresh in the players’ memory as well as the bitter series loss in England. After winning the first Test against Australia, India lost the second one in Perth before bouncing back to win the four-match series 2-1.

“The loss at Perth. It gave us a pretty fair idea of what we needed to do. In terms of going into the next Test in Melbourne and how we needed to approach the game. And that is why we ended up winning the series. In Test cricket, it is all about correcting your mistakes very fast and learning quickly from your loses. And that is what the Test Championship will bring in as well," the Indian skipper said.

"The team that learns quickly from its mistakes will be in the hunt to reach the top of the Championship. We have learnt quite a bit (in Test cricket). Capitalising when the situation is with us and need to control damage when things are stacked up against us. That is the most important part of Test cricket. You can’t lose six wickets in a session and then expect to comeback.”

A total of 120 points will be up for grabs in the two-match series beginning here on Thursday, marking the start of India’s World Test Championship campaign.

“It (WTC) put things into perspective. When you have points to gain and you are working towards something then every match becomes that much more important. It is going to bring in more competition, more requirement of precise cricket and a lot of discipline. I think the format is going to take the standard of Test cricket higher,” Kohli added.

Kohli wants openers to make it count in two-Test series

India skipper Virat Kohli also wants the opening combination of Mayank Agarwal and KL Rahul to make the most of the four innings that they would get to play in the two-Test series against the West Indies.

A lot will be expected from KL Rahul (L) and his opening partner Mayank Agarwal, while skipper Virat Kohli would hope Cheteshwar Pujara (R) keeps up his good form in order to boost India's chances in the Test series against West Indies.   -  Getty Images

 

“In the opening combination, we have selected only two openers, so the idea is to give them four innings, just let them go out there and express themselves. Mayank has done really well, KL (Rahul) has performed well in the past, he is looking forward to making things count in Test cricket again,” Kohli said on the eve of the match.

“At the end of the day, as much as individuals want to perform, it is about what you can do as a team. If you look at the Melbourne Test, how (Hanuma) Vihari and Mayank opened and though Vihari scored just 18 or 20 runs, but he batted for 85 balls, tells you it is all about team, and he handled the situation so well that Pujara and myself could go out there and play the way we did and Pujara then went to get that century for us.

“I think this contributions are not recognised or spoken about so much but as a team we all have markers set as to what is expected from certain batting positions. It is up to them to capitalise and express themselves in these four innings,” he added.

Hanuma Vihari was sent to do the fire-fighting in Australia and it would be unfair to not give him another opportunity.

“Look it again depends on the type of combination that we are going with. Vihari has done really well since the time he has come into the team in two difficult tours. Rohit also did well in Melbourne, so it all depends on what combination we want to go with. Vihari also gives you few overs with the ball and he is a pretty solid player. Rohit’s quality we have been seeing for years. So it is about who provides the best balance in terms in the XI we choose,” he said.

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India boosts of a batting line-up that includes Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane and the skipper said the onus will be on the senior batsmen to control the middle-order.

“We are senior players, we want to take the bulk of the load, that why we are in those position as senior batsman in Test cricket. Along with jinx (Ajinkya Rahane), three of us have been playing for a while and we want to control that middle order and take the load off the other players,” Kohli said.

Kohli was also impressed with the healthy competition in the team.

“I am just happy about guys grabbing their opportunities. As long as there is healthy competition, for starting the game or contributing for the team, within the group, I think it is a great thing for Indian cricket. We are all happy to be in that position where we have a problem of plenty and not need to find players from places. So it is a great position to be,” the captain added.