– ‘Blueprint, right from the dressing room’
After the Kohli- Kumble drift and the second innings for Ravi Shastri, and it is first tour for Kohli as the Captain of the Indian Cricket Team with Shastri being the head coach. This India’s tour of Sri Lanka and after a long time Team India will be playing a complete overseas tour with three test matches; Five One Day Internationals and one off T-20 match.
Right after Shastri has been appointed as the Head Coach by the prestigious advisory committee Shastri is doing everything to prove that ‘He is the Boss’, not only by his words but also by his actions. After not accepting the appointments of Rahul Dravid and Zaheer Khan made by CAC he has included his ‘Own Men’ – Bharat Arun as a replacement for Zak.
Before India plays its first test on the 26th of July (Wednesday) here are some areas that Virat and Shastri need to look into.
- Opening Combination:
“It is a good headache to have for any captain”, this is what everyone has been saying for the past couple of years about the number of opening batsman India has played in the past few series. After the return of KL Rahul after being out for his shoulder injury for quite some time and Rohit Sharma being fit after recovering from his injury both had been included in the squad. Shikhar Dhawan, who had been striking good and was the leading run scorer in the 2017 Champions Trophy, was initially dropped and Avhinav Mukund had been included as the sole left handed opener. But with the injury of Murli Vijay Dhawan was re called for the Lanka Tour. Parthiv Patel another wicket keeper batsman (also an opener) had also been left out from the Test squad. There also had been news that Virat was planning to try Rohit in the opening slot after Vijay was injured leaving only Lokesh Rahul as the only right handed batsman to open the innings. The confirmation of the news that KL Rahul will surely miss the first test due to fever , there are high chances for Sharma to open the innings with Dhawan as the duo does for the team in the ODI and T-20 format. Virat has also said in the press conference that Dhawan and Mukund should look at this tour as an oppourtunity, as players like Parthiv and Gambhir are knocking at the doors and with the injured Vijay back in the mix, it will be very hard for Mukund to find a place in the team.
2. Rahane’s Role in the Team:
It has been a quite sometime for the past 15 months approximately that Sourav Ganguly and the whole of India has been asking the team management this question – “what is exactly Ajinkya Rahane’s role in the team?” . The prestigious CAC also asked this question to every person who had contested for the post of the Head Coach f the Indian Cricket Team. From being an opening batsman in the domestic formats Rahane had to play down the order for the excess number of opening batsman in the squad. It had been Ganaguly’s idea that the number 5 spot in a test batting line up should be occupied by a opener so that he can play the new ball better when there is an issue of taking the new ball by the opposition captain, and therefore Ganguly himself played in that spot for the long time he had been serving Indian cricket. The comeback of KL Rahul and Hitman Sharma, it will be very tough for Rahane to get a spot in the one –day side. After performing brilliantly in the West Indies tour, India’s Test vice captain will surely be eyeing a spot in the One day side on a constant basis. India will be playing its first Test from 26th at Galle, and while playing in the sub continent India will surely need to build a solid batting line up and Rahane’s solid performance in the middle order will play a crucial role in the tour.
3. Combination of the Middle- Order:
In any Test side the number 3, 4, 5 and 6 should have batsman who will be good players of both seam and spin, which makes any test team a good team. Since the last 12 months, Pujara has not delivered what is expected from him. After the retirement of the great Rahul Dravid, it has been Pujara who had brilliantly performed in the number three position. At times Pujara has also been seen opening the innings when he was asked to by the team management , but his lack of footwork (at times) and the gap that he creates between bat and pad while defending has cost his wicket most of the times , and that will be the area where the Lankan pacers will be targeting him. Therefore for India to have a good test series Pujara must perform and not only perform but perform well. Since the retirement of the ‘Master Blaster’ it has been King Kohli who has been doing well at the number 4 spot. His difficulty against left arm seam bowling and his problem in the ‘corridor of uncertainty’ (outside off stump) has cost him his wicket for past two years. With Shastri back in the dressing room, Kohli will surely need to work on those areas with the head coach and Sanjay Bangar (batting coach). It will be a lot on the ‘talented’ and ‘hard working’ shoulders of Kohli to build a new team keeping in mind the 2019 world cup. Rohit Sharma has been back in the dressing room, and Rahane had performed well in the tour to West- Indies, it will be tough choice for Kohli between Sharma and Rahane for the number 5 spot. If Rohit opens the innings with Dhawan the Rahane automatically gets an entry, but if Mukund is asked to open then we have to wait until everything unfolds. Dependable Saha will play in the number 6 spot which will make a good middle order combination for Team India.
4. Bowling Combination:
It has always been since King Kohli was handed the test captaincy that he had believed in playing five regular bowlers, mostly Three ‘seamers’ and two ‘spinners’. With Amit Mishra not being part of the team, it will be between ‘Sir’ Jadeja, Ashwin and the magical Kuldeep Yadav that Kohli needs to decide. Team India played their only practice match with the Sri Lanka’s Board President XI where both Jadeja (3 wickets for 31 runs) and Kuldeep (4wickets for 14 runs) were successful in picking up wickets, but Ashwin went wicket-less. Sri Lanka Board President XI were bundled out for a mere 187 runs in 55.5 overs and India batting second piled on a 312 – 9 wickets and the match ended in a draw.
Team India – Scorecard:
KL RAHUL – 54, A. MUKUND- 0, C.PUJARA – 12, V.KOHLI- 53* (76), A.RAHANE – 40* (58), R.SHARMA – 38*(49), S.DHAWAN – 41*(48), W.SAHA – 36* (40), H.PANDYA – 11 (13), JADEJA – 18 (32).
India has a seam bowling all-rounder in Hardik Pandya which can also be a very good inclusion to make a deep bating line-up.
5. The Mastermind:
After the Champions Trophy loss in the final, Kumble had resigned, it was none other than ‘Captain Cool’ who had been the ‘big brother’ to the team in the West-Indies tour. Now, with the return of Shastri, and with the absence of MSD during the test matches, it will be ‘Big Boss Ravi’ who will have to pull out the rabbit from the hat. It has been an old saying – “To win test matches, you have to take 20 wickets” and taking wickets in the slow subcontinent pitches are hard and tiring at times where the captain and coach need to think out of the box, for which MSD was an expert, now it will be all eyes on Kohli (without MSD) and with Ravi Shastri.
Can Kohli win the series 3-0? Watch out, the First Test on 26th July, 2017(Wednesday), 9:00 am, live from Galle.