As India begin their 2014 Australian sojourn with the first Test at the Adelaide Oval, it could well be the heralding of a new era. Virat Kohli, who has been touted as the next captain, will lead India in a Test match for the first time. (Also Read: We're Here To Play Aggressive Cricket: Virat Kohli)
Virat confirmed on the eve of the first Test that MS Dhoni is yet to recover completely from his thump injury and that he will lead the team out on Tuesday morning.
“I will be leading the team tomorrow,” he said. “We are expecting MS to be a 100 per cent fit in the next three-four days maximum. Given the kind of preparation he wants in Australia before playing a Test, it is too short a time for him to play the first Test without having much practice here,” Virat said.
Dhoni joined the team in the training session on Sunday and had a lengthy chat with Virat in the nets. The stand-in captain said having the senior pro around has helped him prepare for his big Test in a better way.
“MS coming in is always a help for the younger guys in the team. His inputs are ever so important for the team,” Virat said. “Just discussing things with him and taking a few tips on what we are thinking of doing and how we want to go about it is very helpful. He has been there, done that, has seen possibly every situation in cricket. It’s always great to bounce things off him, get the feedback and utilize what you can.”
When he led India to a 5-0 whitewash of Sri Lanka in an ODI series back home recently, Virat often spoke about the aggressive and ruthless brand of cricket he wants India to play. He maintained the stance here as well.
“We have spoken about our combinations and plans and we have planned the things we want to achieve, not hoping to achieve. That’s where we want to change things – we have come here with the mindset of winning the series rather than just going out there and seeing what happens. Unless you really believe in something, you will not achieve it. That’s our motto on this tour and leading up to the World Cup as well.
“The most challenging task for the captain and the team management is keeping everyone in the team on the same page. That’s something we have done quite nicely in the last few days. The guys are happy with what is expected off them and they are very comfortable.
Virat also said he wants to instill the sentiment of ‘we’ rather than ‘me’ in this team.
“Maintaining a positive mindset will be very important. It is very easy for someone who doesn’t do well in the beginning to start sulking as the series progresses and drift away from the kind of mindset we require to win.
“That is something we are trying to change. We are trying to keep everyone in the right mindset by showing them that we back them and have faith in them. I want all the players to think about how they can make the team win, rather than worry about their individual performances. That’s one area where I personally thought we could improve on. Sometimes, we get too caught up with our own technique and game rather than paying attention to the team plans. These look like very small things but in a team they are big factors.”
One of the positives, Virat said this team has over the previous Indian teams traveling to Australia is the pace attack with four bowlers capable of scaling the 140-plus speed consistently. He also said that he will pick the combination of the bowling attack with the intention of winning, rather than that of not losing.
“This is one of the best bowling attacks we have had in Test cricket for a while now with guys who bowl quick, are fit, ready to go and most importantly, are bowling well. It feels good as a captain.
“[Whether we go in with five bowlers or four] is a decision we will take after seeing what serves us best. We have to believe that whatever combination we go in with, we are going to get positive results out of it. There is no point taking a safer approach. Rather than going in with a combination that looks safe, I’d prefer having an attack that is more aggressive and more out there.
“I am personally going to go with whatever my gut feel is and so, you might see quite different things than what you usually do. It might look funny at times but as long as it is effective, I will go with it. I play my cricket aggressively and that’s something I will try to bring in my captaincy as well,” Virat said.
When discussing fast bowling and aggression, talk eventually veered towards the bouncer. In the shadow of recent developments regarding Phil Hughes’ death, the short ball has come under a lot of scrutiny. Virat, however, didn’t understand the need to pay special attention to a delivery that is an essential weapon of every fast bowler’s armoury.
“I don’t think that’s even a thing of debate. Bouncer is a part of cricket and it is every bowler’s right to utilize it. If and when it is involved in our plans, we will use it. I don’t think we will drift away from our plans and wills tick to them.”
Lastly, Virat revealed that one of his premiere pacers, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, is nursing a sprain in his left ankle and whether he would be fit to play on Tuesday or not will be decided in the evening.
“Bhuvnsehwar is recovering from a sprain in his left ankle and we are expecting him to be available for selection for the first Test. It’s a call we will take after consulting the trainer and the physiotherapist later today after practice.”
Below is a list of all the men to have captained the Indian team in the longest format of the sport.