Colombo, Aug 20: Just after 1 defeat in the ongoing Test series against Sri Lanka, aggressive Indian captain Virat Kohli has gone back on his words and has returned to use former skipper MS Dhoni's plan.
As the 2nd Test of the 3-match rubber began in Colombo today (August 20), Kohli, the man who always talks of being aggressive, has gone defensive now. The reversal in Galle seems to have panicked him.
In a new Test era for India, Kohli had talked about playing 5 specialist bowlers. But today, he abandoned that ploy and went back to Dhoni's (4 bowlers).
"I certainly believe in giving the team a chance to pick up 20 wickets. I am a big fan of playing five bowlers in a 6-5 combination. You only need two to three batsmen to click to get a score of 500," the 26-year-old Kohli had said before the one-off Test against Bangladesh in June.
In Galle, Kohli went in with 3 spinners - R Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh and Amit Mishra and 2 fast bowlers - Ishant Sharma and Varun Aaron.
For the 2nd Test, India's plan has reverted to Dhoni era. Harbhajan and Varun have been dropped. All-rounder Stuart Binny, who was originally not part of the 15-man squad but later flown in after the 1st Test, made it to the Playing XI. Umesh Yadav replaced Varun.
After the defeat in Galle, Kohli had defended his 5-bowler strategy and blamed the batsmen for failing to chase down 176 in the 4th innings.
"If I have said I am going to play with five bowlers, I cannot go down after a performance like this and say I wish I had an extra player," he said after the loss.
"You cannot play with 12 players. If I have chosen to play with five bowlers to take 20 wickets then it is our responsibility to bat in a better way and we did not do that today. So I am not bringing up any excuses or wishing that we had an extra batsman. We should have done better with six batsmen," he added.
Team Director Ravi Shastri too, before Sri Lanka series, had backed Kohli in the 5-bowler theory. "5 bowlers is the first option at all times unless you get a track where you know four bowlers are enough, where you know will turn from Day One or where it is going to seam and hoop all over the place from Day One. Then you might not need five bowlers. But (we will apply) the Bangladesh formula as much as we can. It will be an added responsibility for the batsmen, but it also gives you a chance to stay in the contest if you are bowled out quickly," he had said.
But amidst all the talking, cricket is a game played on the field and it was rightly put by former captain Sunil Gavaskar after the 1st Test. He asked Team India to stop talking about aggressiveness and concentrate on playing. This was clearly aimed at Kohli.
"I think we should stop talking about aggressiveness, tentativeness and whatever, I think we should just focus on the game and start playing the game. We don't have to justify anything to anybody as to the kind of cricket you are going to play.
"You have got to play cricket that suits your team, that suits the position that the team is in, suits the pitch that you are playing on and suits the opposition that you are playing against," Gavaskar told NDTV.
After Kohli won the toss today and opted to bat first at P Sara Oval, Gavaskar, who is part of the TV commentary team, said, India had gone in with "4 and a quarter bowlers" and not 5.
Former India batsman-turned-commentator Sanjay Manjrekar said he was disappointed that the team had "dumped" 5-bowler strategy.
The 31-year-old Binny is not a specialist seam bowler. He is playing his 4th Test today, that too after a gap of 1 year. In his 3 Tests before, he is yet to take a wicket. And on Sri Lanka pitches, a team does not require 3 fast bowlers.
It will be interesting to hear from Kohli on what made him to go back on his 5-bowler plan. Will he completely abandon it or do we see a return in next Test?