Virat Kohli’s Indian team hit a rare trough in performance after their two-match T20 series loss to Australia. But they don’t have much time to ponder on the defeat as the five-match ODI series gets underway in Hyderabad on Saturday.
After the ODI series, the Indian players will head straight into IPL-12, which will get underway on March 23. The Indian skipper announced categorically that IPL performance will have no bearing on India’s final World Cup squad.
“No, I don't see the IPL having any influence on World Cup selection. I think that will be very, very radical sort of analysis,” the Indian captain said, on the eve of the first ODI in Hyderabad on Friday.
There were talks that IPL could be a possible shoot-out between Kolkata Knight Riders captain Dinesh Karthik and Delhi Capitals’ Rishabh Pant for the second wicketkeeper’s slot but Kohli announced that one good IPL won’t make much of a difference for any World Cup hopeful.
“We need to have a solid team. Before we head into the IPL, we need to be absolutely clear of what team we want for the World Cup. I don’t see anything changing on how the IPL goes for any of the players.
“If one or two players do not have a good IPL season, it doesn’t mean that they are out of the picture for the World Cup. Those things are not going to matter,” Kohli said when asked if IPL performances will be considered for World Cup selection.
These five ODIs are final tune-up for the team before India’s 2019 World Cup clash against South Africa in Southampton on June 5. With majority of World Cup berths finalised, Kohli needs to fine tune a couple of slots, like the third opener’s berth for the tournament in England later this year which he intends to do in this ODI series.
“T20 series was a short series. It’s done and Australia played better than us. We’ll have to be at out absolute best to win this ODI series,” Kohli said.
“There is always opportunity for teams to come back strongly and show character. In any big tournament like the World Cup, you have to show the ability to come back. All guys are really excited to do that — get basics right, streamlining their mind to adapt to different situations, do what’s required for the team and do it well,” the skipper said.
After two poor outings in the T20 series for Pant, Kohli still needs to give more game time to the young wicketkeeper but the skipper is not prepared to do that at the cost of losing a bowler.
“We will have to think about the combinations. I don’t think playing a bowler less is a good idea because with the extra fielder in till the 40th over, it becomes very difficult to sort of get a few guys to chip in with a few overs here and there.
“We will have to work out the batting combination to try and give game-time to the guys we want to. But, I don’t see the bowling combination changing,” Kohli said.
One area that will please Kohli was the return of form for KL Rahul after the Bangalore opener scored an impressive 50 and 47 in the two T20 ties.
“It augurs really well for the team. KL (Rahul), when he plays well, is operating at a different level I feel. We have seen him do that in the IPL last year and in patches over the last season we played as a team.
“It’s very difficult to find a consistent player, who can play good cricketing shots and still win you games at a strike-rate of over 140 or 150. He has all the shots and has a solid game as well. It will be interesting to see what happens in the final World Cup squad. Definitely, he has made a strong case for himself. It’s good he’s in great nick and hopefully he can carry it forward,” the Indian skipper said about Rahul.
Kohli felt that India lost the T20 series because Australia were a better side and not because of the Indian team’s decision to experiment.
“From outside, it’s easy to say, they don’t have the heart to play. We always want to win games for India. If we only had to experiment, we would have got out for 50 as everybody would have got out trying to hit sixes.
“If you see it negatively, you’ll only be able to extract negative things but if you look at it positively, you’ll be able to take positive things,” he said.
Asked if he was concerned about leg-spinner’s Yuzvendra Chahal’s form, Kohli said, “I don’t know if you have seen Chahal’s numbers — if that’s not good performance, I don’t know what is. It depends on the opposition that you are facing, which of the two bowlers (Kuldeep Yadav or Chahal) is more effective.
“If conditions are seaming, attack will be more pace-dominated along with Hardik (Pandya) the all-rounder. I don’t see one ahead of the other in the pegging order, both of them (Yadav and Chahal) together are strongest spin bowling partnership in the world at the moment. That is something that me and team are happy about. Our success over the last year has been down to these two bowlers’ ability to pick up wickets in the middle-order,” he added.
Finally, about the upcoming ODI series, Kohli said, “Both teams know each other really well. Australia have a better idea of playing in Indian conditions because of number of players playing in the IPL. They (Australia) are pretty used to playing in these conditions and how to play here. So we have to be at our absolute best and nothing can be taken lightly. Eleven guys pushing forward and win every ball of the match is what is required to beat a team that has momentum of winning matches at the moment. It’s definitely going to be good series.”