The biggest change made by India captain Virat Kohli since taking over from Mahendra Singh Dhoni is the inclusion of an extra bowler, and while it is too early to judge if the strategy will pay off in the long run, he intends to give it every chance.
Kohli was named captain after Dhoni retired from the five-day format during the series in Australia last year. India’s one-off match in Bangladesh, which ended in a draw last Sunday (14), was their first full Test series under the 26-year-old.
India have, in the past, preferred to play six frontline batsmen in their Test side but brought in an extra bowler for the match against Bangladesh.
While it was difficult to gauge the impact of the switch given that rain washed away a chunk of the match, Kohli seems set to stick with five bowlers for Tests in Sri Lanka and at home to South Africa later in the year.
“I am a big fan of playing five bowlers,” Kohli told reporters after the match in Fatullah last Sunday.
“I would want someone like R Ashwin, who is averaging 40 with the bat in Test matches – you really can’t ask for more from an allrounder – and someone like Harbhajan Singh to step up with the bat, and (Wriddhiman) Saha too.
“If those three start clicking, you have eight batsmen, and you can’t really ask for more as a captain.
“It’s basically up to the first six to take more responsibility and we are confident of doing that.”
India bundled Bangladesh out in under 66 overs in batting friendly conditions and the captain was impressed with the off-spin duo of Ashwin and Harbhajan, who was making a comeback for his country after over two years.
Ashwin took his 10th five-wicket haul, while the 34-year-old Harbhajan grabbed three wickets.
“I would like to have players who can win us games in the bowling unit. And both of them have that ability,” Kohli said.
“Especially now that we have a prolonged season in the subcontinent, we need to look at how we can strengthen our team for that as of now.
“Watching them bowl together in a pair was really exciting as a captain. And I think both of them enjoyed bowling together as well – if one put pressure, the other took a wicket and vice versa.”
Not having Dhoni, who played 90 Tests, around for the longer format was still a unfamiliar feeling for the new captain.
“It’s obviously strange,” Kohli said. “The same thing happened when Sachin Tendulkar retired. A few games after that it was a very strange feeling.
“You suddenly don’t see a very impactful figure in the dressing room. As a cricketer, you always get used to having him around, listening to him, having discussions with him.
“That voice is always there and it’s a very familiar feeling in the change room.”