Kohli and Co face Caribbean grind
Captain Virat Kohli will look to put to rest, all the off-field controversies regarding Anil Kumble's controversial exit, as India gear up for the first ODI against a second string West Indies, here on Friday.
Ironically, it was the Caribbean Islands, where Anil Kumble's journey as the chief national coach started but within a year, the team is back without its coach.
Skipper Kohli, whose much publicised difference of opinion with coach Anil Kumble, has grabbed the headlines more than team's performance in the Champions Trophy, couldn't have asked for a more convenient opposition than the West Indies, which even struggled against minnows Afghanistan.
A cluster of big wins in the five-match ODI series and single T20 will help Kohli divert the unnecessary attention pinned on him with many ready to make him the 'fall guy' in the entire Kumble episode.
This will also be an occasion when Kohli will have complete freedom in team selection as batting coach Sanjay Bangar is not known for giving any tangible inputs save giving throwdowns to the senior players of the side.
With Jason Holder's men just about managing to draw the three-match ODI series against Afghanistan 1-1, there is no doubt that the current Indian team are a few notches ahead in terms of quality.
Even Kohli knows that well and with BCCI top brass backing him on the Kumble issue, the margin for error is very little for the Indian captain.
A 5-0 whitewash is something that is expected against a side that has a cumulative ODI experience of 213 matches between 13 players with skipper Holder as the most-capped player with 58 matches to his name. Compare it to a whopping 776 matches collectively between Yuvraj Singh (301), MS Dhoni (291) and Virat Kohli (184), the stark contrast between the two sides is so very distinct. For India, this series is also an ideal platform to test the team's bench strength.
With Jasprit Bumrah being rested for the series, it will be an ideal opportunity for the captain to check out Mohammed Shami, who did not get a game during the Champions Trophy.
The pacer has not played any official ODI since the 2015 World Cup semi-final post which he had multiple surgeries and played a few Test matches only. Shami will be keen to regain his place in the ODI XI and West Indies gives him a proper chance to do so.
With Rohit Sharma rested for the West Indies limited-over series, Kohli said that Ajinkya Rahane will open alongside Shikhar Dhawan in the upcoming five-match ODI series starting on Thursday.
Rohit, who opened for India along with Shikhar Dhawan in the just-concluded Champions Trophy in the United Kingdom, has been rested for the West Indies tour. The decision means that prolific youngster Rishabh Pant has to wait for his turn in the middle-order.
Asked about opening combination, Kohli said:"We have Ajinkya who we had as a back-up opener in the Champions Trophy. He will start for sure with Shikhar Dhawan (in West Indies series). He is someone who has done well at the opener's slot."