India and West Indies will play their first ODI of a 5-match series on Sunday in Guwahati. Ahead of the series opener, Indian skipper Virat Kohli talked about the solution for number four batting position which is still vacant even after trying numerous batsmen.
Kohli on Saturday said Ambati Rayudu can help India solving the number 4 position issue if he shows consistency with his performance. There is not much time left in World Cup 2019 and this is one problem which has bothered the team from a long time now.
“The only position we were trying to figure out was number four for a long time. We tried many players who unfortunately could not capitalize or cement their places in a way we wanted,” Kohli said. “With Rayudu coming in and playing well in the Asia Cup, it’s about giving him enough game time till the World Cup so that the particular slot will be sorted for us,” he added.
Rayudu played for India in Asia Cup 2018 after being sidelined from the Indian squad for England tour. Virat watched his performance in the six-nation tournament last month where he felt Rayudu is suitable for the spot.
“The team felt there -- and I also watched him -- that he (Rayudu) is designed to play that middle order batsman’s role. We feel that our middle-order is more or less balanced now,” Kohli said. “We believe he is the right person to capitalize on that spot. He is experienced and has won many games for his state and also in the IPL. He has a great ODI record already for India. I think the batting order is sorted.”
Virat wants to focus on finding the best combination in the 18 ODIs left before the World Cup 2019 kicks off. “Now these 18 games would be to find the perfect combination that we want to take into the World Cup,” Kohli said.
The Indian captain doesn't want to change the set of players who would feature in the playing XI unless injury forces them out. “Barring injuries or niggles, we want one combination to play through and through. Apart from bowlers resting here and there in the ODIs, we only changed the No. 4 slot because we wanted someone to cement the place,” Kohli said.
Speaking on batting position of under fire MS Dhoni, if he is open for bat lower or not, Kohli said, “Here, more often than not people want to create controversies out of nothing.
“You look at things the way you want to. You see anyone stepping out at number three according to the situation for a side England.”
Indian top order hasn't left much for the lower order to bat and Kohli addressed it as well. “Batting order is always ready, especially after four. The guys below four are always flexible in terms of the situation. You want the best thing for the team. Being flexible is very important,” he said.
Kohli added that if top order batsmen bat till 40 overs, there is no second thought to send a hard hitter if they get dismissed. “There’s no rocket science to it. In T20 cricket, you do that all the time. You are flexible in what you want to do as a batting order.
“Yes, you would want a consistent batting line-up at those positions invariably but if there’s a situation where you’re only two down after 40 overs then someone who can capitalize in the death overs better can step in. As a team, we understand that,” Kohli explained.
The 29-year-old also spoke on Khaleel Ahmed being named as 12th man for first ODI. “We don’t want to leave any bases uncovered. We thought bringing a left-arm pacer into the mix will give us enough variety. He has the ability to swing both ways and get a good bounce as well. He also bowls at a decent pace,” he said.
Kohli said his front-line pace duo of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah will feed off on the variety provided by Khaleel.
“It’s always an added luxury to have him (Ahmed) in the team. Definitely, he makes the job easier for Bhuvi and Bumrah,” he said.