During the 2011 tour of England, Rahul Dravid, India’s long-time Test No.3, played the stand-in opener in four innings. He did enjoy success while batting at the top of the order, but it wasn’t a role he preferred. Since his days as a junior, he wasn’t used to running off the field after the opposition got dismissed or to hastily pad up and face the first ball of a new innings.
On that tour, Dravid confessed that he never shrugged the responsibility of replacing an injured opener, but he was more at peace when he was allowed to follow his usual less-hectic routine of preparing himself in the dressing room before taking guard.
With India desperate to save the current ODI series, Virat Kohli, the ODI No.3 and Test No.4, was forced to do a Dravid at Hamilton. And it was it was rather evident that he wasn’t cut out for the job. Strangely, Kohli was asked to leave his comfort zone even when there was no injury crisis. Adding intrigue to this decision was Ajinkya Rahane’s spot in the line-up — the experienced opener played at No.3.
Going back in time, Kohli started playing age-group in Delhi as a middle-order batsman. Graduating to the Delhi Ranji squad that had the likes of Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Aakash Chopra and Shikhar Dhawan, he was pushed lower down the order. His first big impact on the international scene too was as a No.3 for India’s Under-19 World Cup winning team.
Kohli did play as an opener in his first ODI game, but at that point in his career he was the talented youngster who had to somehow fit into the senior team. Moreover he was untested. With time Kohli found his true calling. He proved himself as a batsman who would play the anchor to help the team set a big traget or be the brain behind a successful chase.
He wasn’t there to merely build a platform, he was the brick and mortar-man who would leave only after giving the finishing touches to the piece.
Kohli was too precious to be exposed to two new balls and fresh pacers on a juicy wicket. India, over the years, have had several batsmen who could play cameos roles – be it at the top of the order or during the death overs. But what they have lacked is a batsmen like Kohli who score fast, manipulate the strike and be around when the winning runs were hit. Don’t adjust Kohli, juggle the rest of the batsmen around him.