Virat Kohli will have the services of Gautam Gambhir and Jayant Yadav in place of KL Rahul and Ishant Sharma respectively for the second Test against New Zealand. India have not lost a Test since August 2015. They beat Sri Lanka and West Indies in their own den, and South Africa at home. In addition they won the first match of the three-Test series against New Zealand by 197 runs. So far, so good. Everything seems to be in the right place for captain Virat Kohli. He has captained the team in 15 Tests, emerging triumphant in eight games. Placed at No. 2 in ICC Test Rankings, India have become a mighty force to be reckoned with. All the same, there are a few chinks in the armour that need to be repaired before they break India apart. Kohli, as a matter of fact, has never played the same starting XI. He is often seen toying with the team composition. Sometimes he plays an extra batsman and sometimes attacks with a five-bowler strategy. However, it’s the result that matters in the end. And Kohli has not been at the doorstep of defeat of late. He, somehow, manages to take his team over the line. He dishes out a line-up according to the nature of the track. At times, he finalises it depending on the opposition’s strengths. In short, he goes for horses for courses. In his very first Test as the captain, Kohli chose leg-spinner Karn Sharma over experienced Ravichandran Ashwin. Against West Indies, in the third Test, he dropped Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara. There were times when Amit Mishra played ahead of Ravindra Jadeja when the latter’s services would have been more lethal. In the first Test against New Zealand at Kanpur, he replaced Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who took a five-wicket haul against West Indies in the third Test, with the erratic Umesh Yadav. Few of his decisions do defy cricketing knowledge, to be honest. The first Test saw Shikhar Dhawan warming the bench. The decision seemed fair and square, given his inconsistent performance. However, India should have played a fifth bowler. Agreed, Rohit Sharma played a vital knock in the second innings. Nonetheless, that was something even Amit Mishra would have provided. To remind you, he has a score of 84 to his name against England, at The Oval. On the other hand, Bhuvneshwar is handy with the bat as well. He, in fact, stitched second-highest partnership by an Indian pair for 10th wicket with Mohammed Shami. READ: India, New Zealand arrive in Kolkata ahead of 2nd Test To put things into perspective, what it did was, it pushed Ravichandran Ashwin and Wriddhiman Saha (the duo that together added 213 runs in Caribbean tour) down the order. In all fairness, a player of Saha’s class should not bat below No. 7. With Rohit at No. 6 and Ashwin at 7, the wicketkeeper batsman had no option but to bat six-down. As a result, India need to stick to five-bowler strategy. They need to make sure they make full use of the resources they have in their arsenal. KL Rahul, who scored 32 and 38 in the first match, pulled his hamstring, and is replaced by Gautam Gambhir. The right- hander gave India a blistering start, laying a strong foundation for Cheteshwar Pujara and Murali Vijay. However, it’s the shot selection that brought downfall of few Indian batsmen, including Rahul, Kohli, and Ajinkya Rahane. Rahul looked good for a big score in both innings. His timing was resounding and foot work even more immaculate. Nonetheless, he got out to a reckless shot. It was a regulation good length ball. Instead of leaning forward, he rocked back, putting himself in an awkward position. In addition, instead of leaving the ball, he tried to scythe it, eventually edging it to the keeper. READ: IND can topple PAK from No. 1 spot with win at Kolkata vs NZ. In the second innings, he got carried away yet again. Another good start, he threw away. This time he edged a back-of-length delivery to first-slip. There have been many players who pursued attacking brand of cricket in the longest format as well. Few were technically sound and few heavily relied on hand-and-eye coordination (how can one forget Virender Sehwag?). Rahul can do both: he can play defensive as well attacking cricket. Rarely do we see a player of such vigour. And it hurts when such batsman gets out to a heedless shot. All the same, there is no margin for error, for there are other cricketers in the domestic circuit putting up stellar performances time and again. Amidst all this, India captain Kohli has been finding it difficult to emulate his genius. Ever since his 200 at North Sound, he has churned out runs at an average of 15. His batsmanship isn’t under scrutiny. He often takes us aback with his superlative performances. However, he is to blame for his mode of dismissals as well. In the first innings, he top-edged a short ball to deep fine-leg (very similar to the way he got out in the semi-final of ICC Cricket World 2015). He was in no position to play it. Moreover, instead of leaving short deliveries, he often has a go at them. And that’s not Test cricket is all about.
More than aggression, it is the tenacity that matters. To make things worse, he repeated his mistake in the second innings as well. Truth be told, it was even worse. He tried to clear mid-wicket, top-edging it when his team needed him to stay at the crease. READ: Here’s why Dhawan may get a nod ahead of Gambhir for Kolkata Test. Be that as it may, it’s India’s middle-order that has been the matter of concern since the South Africa series. It’s either the top or lower middle-order that provides the much-needed impetus. To be honest, had Pujara-Rahul and Jadeja-Ashwin not scored runs, India would have been staring at a defeat in the series opener. And it’s about time the likes of Kohli and Rahane play long innings and remind us of tedious partnerships former Indian greats used to stitch.