Kohli looks to end 22-year wait for series win in Sri Lanka
Indian Test captain Virat Kohli’s aggressive strategy to deploy five specialist bowlers will be tested when India begin the three-match Test series against Sri Lanka in Galle on Wednesday, hoping to end a 22-year-old wait for a series triumph on Lankan soil.
While the baton had passed on to him from Mahendra Singh Dhoni in Sydney, this is Kohli’s first full assignment in charge after the one-off-Test in Bangladesh.
Kohli has already promised to provide an aggressive brand of leadership and go into Test matches with five bowlers in a bid to take 20 wickets.
His journey as Test skipper had begun in Adelaide where he stood-in for Dhoni on account of injury, and led India valiantly to a 48-run loss, despite two sterling hundreds in both innings. In Sydney, he was defiant in the mannerism of his team selection, chopping and changing a side worn down by poor form, injury and fatigue. At Fatullah, he persisted with the five-bowler theory, and also brought a Test stalwart –Harbhajan Singh — back in the side.
If pre-series warm-up and practice sessions are anything to go by, in summation, all of the above points will continue to feature in Kohli’s strategy in this series as well.
With Murali Vijay ruled out of the first Test owing to a troublesome right hamstring since the Zimbabwe tour, Kohli will have his task cut out to bring in the young Lokesh Rahul into the playing eleven. It is after the opening slots that things get interesting, primarily owing to form, but the team management is expected to follow a set template.
At present, among the batsmen, only Ajinkya Rahane is untouchable and he fits in easily at number five. Rohit Sharma, Kohli himself and Wriddhiman Saha were off-colour in the practice match. It is a tad too early to deem them out of touch, given that they had all experienced some time off.
Yet, their run-scoring patterns, since the Australian tour, have been indifferent. Kohli was immaculate in the Test series Down Under, with four hundreds in as many matches.
Since then, his limted-overs’ form tailed off, despite starting the World Cup with a hundred against Pakistan. He didn’t reach double digits in four ODIs prior to that match, and in ten matches afterwards, his highest score is 46. As an individual batsman, the skipper is a big-game player, and he will feed off the energetic experience of leading the side.