When the national selectors recalled Yuvraj Singh into India’s squad for the limited-overs’ series against England, the decision looked baffling to many, considering the veteran batsman has appeared to have past him prime for the last couple of years. However, newly appointed ODI captain Virat Kohli explained the decision was a sort of a stop-gap arrangement, keeping in mind a relatively inexperienced middle-order ahead of the ICC Champions Trophy.
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"Right now we don’t have the time to nurture the one spot as much because we have a big tournament coming up straight away. That’s why Yuvi was brought into the team," Kohli said at the Maharashtra Cricket Association stadium on Saturday, on the eve of the series-opening ODI against England.
"We had discussed (Ambati) Rayudu as well, but he has been injured for a long time and didn’t have game-time behind him. Yuvi has had a very good first-class season, so obviously he was into the team before anyone else. So, I think this just gives the team much more balance in the middle and lower-middle order with MS (Dhoni) and Yuvi. They can really guide Kedar (Jadhav) and Hardik (Pandya) still with them, but to have two experienced guys compared to one is a massive difference. I am sure Hardik and Kedar can learn a lot from them, batting along with them."
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Kohli, as a result, also indicated that Kedar Jadhav, coming off a fruitful series against New Zealand with the bat and the ball, will be preferred ahead of Manish Pandey. The diminutive batsman is thus set to make a maiden appearance in an international in front of his home crowd. He, along with the rest of his team-mates, will look to make a strong case for selection for the Champions Trophy, with India not playing a single ODI after these three games before the marquee event.
The India captain, however, kept the cards close to his chest when it came to the opening combination and the bowlers’ line-up. It would be interesting to see what will be India’s opening combination – with three strong contenders in K.L. Rahul, Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan. During the team’s optional training session on Saturday, while Dhawan opted to rest, Rahul and Rahane had long stints in the nets. The Mumbai batsman was also involved in a long discussion with head coach Anil Kumble after his stint with the willow.
Besides the early prelude to Champions Trophy and the passing of captaincy baton from Dhoni to Kohli, the other talking point would be the use of Decision Review System (DRS). The ODI series will be the first time the system will be used in India in a bilateral ODI series. Kohli said that Dhoni as a wicketkeeper will be "priceless" when it comes to deciding whether to seek a review while bowling.
"(It’s) priceless. I saw a stat yesterday that 95 per cent of his appeals that he’s made in his career have been successful. As a captain I have no sort of extra thinking as far as DRS is concerned. He’s one voice, if he tells me it’s outside the line or it is missing, the decision stands there," he said.
"It’s not left up to doubt or any further debate from there on. He's someone who has always been very smart with decision making, as far as appeals are concerned as well. I think his word will be the one word that I will trust as far as DRS is concerned. Because he is in the best position, plus he’s the most intelligent cricketer around, so there’s no doubt in my mind."