IN THE end, the end justified the means. Virat Kohli didn’t say as much in the presser. But he could relate himself to this dictum. For in the first three days of this Tests, his judgement and choices were not only scrutinised threadbare but also ripped apart mercilessly.
First the decision to not recall Murali Vijay despite his availability. Then the decision to swap Umesh Yadav and Amit Mishra with Bhuvneshwar and Ravindra Jadeja, respectively. Yadav and Mishra had just a bad match and the logic behind their dropping seemed more knee jerk. Then his own promotion to No 3, a spot where he had only batted a handful of times in the past, more of a circumstance-driven move that a definite upgrading.
Two of his tactics backfired. Vijay was sorely missed on the first morning of the match. So did his own promotion, as he perished for a single digit score in the first innings. But the other two decisions, in hindsight seemed a tactical master-stroke, or inspired moves. Bhuvneshwar’s post-lunch spell opened up the match, and West Indies batsmen didn’t quite recover from the shock.
Jadeja added effervescence on the field while making a crucial breakthrough in the second innings, when he jettisoned Blackwood, who if inspired can swing the match with the might of a his willow.
So Kohli was gloriously vindicated. And he couldn’t hold back defending himself. “very few people like change. This team doesn’t think how others would react or what they might say. We put out a combination that’s best according to the pitch. In bowling we replaced Umesh with Bhuvneshwar because we felt that since the ground is so good it would be easier to maintain the shine on the ball. The pitch was also hard so there was carry. Bhuvneshwar gave us breakthroughs with the second new ball,” he stressed.
His own promotion was to accommodate Rohit Sharma, who he thinks can impact the match in a bigger way than Pujara. “When I came at No.3 people asked why I did it. But I am not fixated by my batting spot. If the team needs, I can open the batting because that’s the rule applicable to everyone in the team. It’s not as if I will stay at No.4 and others will shuffle around. To field a player like Rohit we had to make him bat at No.5. To make that happen others had to go one place up” he said.
Throughout the interaction, he stressed that the overhaul was not a reaction to the Sabina Park draw, but a response to the conditions in St. Lucia. “If you make three changes you might feel it might to be too strong a reaction. But we realised if we have to seal the series then we had to make changes according to the conditions. We will not wait for another match because you never know if you play one or two bad sessions the series could be levelled,” he said.
So when you analyse the bigger picture, it was Kohli’s inherently aggressive captaincy that ringed in the changes.
And Kohli seems to have send out a tacit message too. “If you can’t incorporate my philosophy, you can as well sit out.” Spare a thought for poor Vijay, though.