India captain Virat Kohli Wednesday said top-order batting is the only aspect left to be sorted in the Test team and “enough space” would be given to youngsters such as Prithvi Shaw to showcase their talent confidently. Kohli said experimentation can only be done in the top-order and has high hopes from the 18-year-old Shaw, who will make his Test debut on Thursday in the opening game against the West Indies in Rajkot. Shaw is expected to open alongside K L Rahul.
“We have a change at the top of the order. We will give these guys enough space and enough chances to feel comfortable at that position. We want them to be confident of what they are doing,” Kohli said in the pre-match press conference.
“The lower-order is all about contribution, there is no change needed there. Rishabh (Pant) is new but Ashwin and Jadeja have performed in so many games at home they just need to replicate it abroad. Apart from the top-order getting cemented, I don’t think with these Two Test there is a lot we are looking at. Rest of the things are quite settled,” he added.
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After series losses in South Africa and England, the Indian team management was slammed for making too many changes in the playing eleven but Kohli justified the decisions made.
“…you need your best eleven on the park. In the past, most of the changes have been made in the bowling combination and people have conveniently taken otherwise. The bowlers that have sat out have never felt they have been hard done by,” said Kohli.
“The motive has always been to pick the best eleven and we have hardly tinkered with the batting order barring a couple of guys who have not been in form. We have utilised the conditions to the maximum wherever we have gone,” he said referring to the bowlers’ good work in South Africa and England.
Kohli said the final XI is always picked based on the conditions that the team is facing. “We have been able to pick up 20 wickets because of the fact we played people who are suited for the conditions. Batting has not been up to the mark and that is why we have not done well in England.
“No one wants to do something different every game. It is all about what is in front of you and accordingly you pick your best eleven,” said the skipper.
Contributions from the lower-order helped England win the series 4-1 as openers from both teams struggled in tough conditions for major part of the five-Test series. While India’s lower-order comprising R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have done well at home, they can do a lot better overseas, according to Kohli.
“Everyone on the outside also knows the areas we need to improve on. If you look at the sides which win Test matches, contribution at the top and contribution of the lower-order are more crucial than the contribution of the middle order.
“Whatever happens in the middle order is connected to either what top-order or lower-order does. The reason England were better than us because their lower-order did well. I won’t say their top-order did better than us. We realise that,” he explained.
Kohli said the lower-order must perform better ahead of the Australia tour next month.
“See in home conditions, we are not bothered by it because we have done really well as far as lower-order contributions are concerned. But definitely we would like to take the West Indies series as a benchmark we want to set.
“With a couple of new guys coming at the top, they have an opportunity to showcase their skill sets and show why selectors have backed them,” he said.
Kohli is back in action after a break. He missed the Asia Cup in Dubai to give his back much-needed rest and is raring to go again.
“I feel rejuvenated again both mentally and physically. I needed the break after the intensity with which the tours of South Africa and England went. People usually talk about workloads but they don’t usually understand the concept. They refer to workload as the number of games played,” he said.
“There is no workload if you make zero in every game. If I bat for six hours that is workload,” he added.
Managing the workload of players will be given top priority ahead of the 2019 World Cup, he said.
“I definitely needed a break because of my back. Looking at the World Cup these things are very important to consider, to give players ample rest and opportunity to train well and come back stronger. You don’t want them breaking down in crucial times,” asserted the skipper.
(With PTI Inputs)