India skipper Virat Kohli on Friday said that the team management was exploring a possibility of changing the opening combination for the second Test against South Africa which begins in Centurion from Saturday.
India’s preferred openers Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay struggled to fire in both innings of the opening Test. It is being speculated that Dhawan might make way for KL Rahul in the second Test.
Rahul, who is India’s No 3 opener, could get a look in as the visitors hope to level things up in the three-Test series.
“As far as the opening combination is concerned, we are going to decide in the practice session, what we are going to go with in this game. Might do something also whether we will go with a different opening combination,” Kohli told reporters.
“Having said that, there is definitely no need to panic as a batting unit because of collapses. Whether we play five batsmen or six, the batsmen have to apply themselves better. One needs to have a solid technique and face bowling spells. We need to embrace that,’ he added.
Dhawan had struggled with the short ball during the first Test. Kohli touched upon the troubles of countering bounce in South African conditions, stating that the batsmen need to keep their composure.
“We must not get surprised by the bounce here,” the skipper said.
“We have to maintain composure when you get sudden change of bounce, which you experience in South Africa. Here the bounce can be steep from length also. You need to mentally tune yourself to these things and accept that it is going to be a major part of batting in South Africa.”
“I feel that definitely the batting order, through mistakes we committed in the first game and through the experience we gained in the first game, we are certainly in a much better shape to come at their bowling attack in this Test,” he added.
Kohli took a dig at critics questioning Ajinkya Rahane’s exclusion in the first Test against South Africa, stating that those who wanted his deputy’s omission are now clamouring for his comeback.
“It’s funny how things change in a matter of weeks, or just about five days. Before the first Test no-one thought that he should be in the eleven and now suddenly people are looking at the other option,” Kohli said.
The captain’s comment is interesting given that Rahane’s selection in the playing XI had not been called into question even once.
In fact, given his stupendous overseas record, it came as quite a shocker when his name was missing from the final XI for the first Test which India lost by 72 runs in three playing days in Cape Town.
“For us as a team, it’s all about finding the right balance. If players fit in in the kind of balance we want to go in with as a side, then they will fit in. We certainly don’t go on opinions that are created outside, and talk of the town and all those sort of things,” Kohli’s sarcasm at the pre-match conference was not lost on anyone.
“He (Rahane) is a quality player. He has done well in South Africa, in all conditions actually away from home. He is probably been our most consistent and solid player away from home,” the skipper said.
He repeated that Rohit Sharma was selected because of his current form.
“I explained the reasons why Rohit Sharma started ahead of him. I am not saying that Ajinkya cannot or will not start in this game. Possibilities are all open at the moment and we shall decide after practice.”
With India placed precariously in the series, Kohli emphasised the need to play with intent, especially in trying condition like the ones prevalent in South Africa.
“Intent does not mean going out and start playing shots from ball one,” Kohli said. “Intent is there in a leave, intent is there is defending a ball. Intent is there is being vocal about calling out there in the middle. All those things count as intent,” he added.