When Virat Kohli takes the field on Wednesday for the first ODI against South Africa in Paarl, it will be the first time in five years that he will not be captaining an Indian team. The winds of change have started blowing strongly across Indian cricket and the throes of transition awaits the team.
Kohli, who longed for an ICC trophy as a captain, has been essentially the one man setting the vision for the team for much of the past decade. And now that T20 and ODI World Cups are set to happen on the bounce in the next 20 months, head coach Rahul Dravid has a lot on his plate to reset the “process”, a word that is synonymous with Dravid’s way.
KL Rahul finds himself in a tricky situation. Standing in for the designated captain Rohit Sharma, he has been tasked with kick-start the rebuilding process.
“Virat has done a lot of things right and he has already set a standard for all of us and Team India,” Rahul said on the eve of the first ODI. “It is all about going forward is to build on that and we obviously know what it takes for us to be a champion team. When it comes to leadership, Virat had this amazing ability to get the best out of everybody. He pushed everybody and made us believe that we can do special things,” he added.
It’s not the easiest series to start the process. India have barely played 10 ODIs in the past two years. They have been hammered in New Zealand and Australia in this format. There’s no momentum or template to India’s ODI cricket at the moment. With the ODI World Cup 20 months away, it’s imperative the team settles down soon.
“There were very few opportunities last year. But this year we are playing quite a bit of ODI series (sic) which gives us a chance to try out newer things. We have sat down as a team and had an honest talk about what are the things we need to improve and everyone’s committed to that. We all have the World Cup in mind but we have a process that we all have decided to follow this series and going ahead. All these games really become important for us to try to grow as a team,” Rahul stated.
The unsettled middle-order, which has haunted India since the 2019 World Cup, and the lack of a sixth-bowling option are the diagnosed problems in India’s ODI cricket. Rahul kept harping on the need to stay flexible. While he made it clear that he will be back to opening the batting in the series, it doesn’t mean he will never push himself down the order again as he has done in the last two years.
“We don’t want to become predictable. We will try out some combinations,” he claimed. Interestingly, Rahul’s statement is a departure from Rohit’s assertion of definite roles for players.