Antigua: Indian skipper Virat Kohli has said that his team wouldlook to play "attacking cricket" preferably with "five specialist bowlers" to set the tone in the the four-match Test series against the West Indies.
Kohli spoke of 'India's horses for courses' policy, the importance of having five bowlers in the team, the difficulty in choosing between Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul, and the learnings from the Australia and Sri Lanka series, among other things.
"I am always in the favour of playing five bowlers because if we play more batsmen, you can score 700 runs in a Test but that doesn't help in any way. You need to take 20 wickets to win a Test match. So our top five batsmen plus the wicketkeeper will have to take responsibility and raise a big score so that we can bowl them out twice," Kohli said at the pre-match press conference.
"Even if we do need put on a big score, we need to get enough runs so that we don't need to bat for long the second time. This has been our mindset for the last two seasons and we want to start the series with that same mind set that our bowling should be strong enough to take 20 wickets," Kohli added.
Kohli said that he has a combination in mind but will not reveal it.
"We have a combination in our mind, but I cannot really disclose that now. But we have learnt from the past after playing in Australia and Sri Lanka. We have learnt that we need to attack from the first Test itself and set the tone for the series. Therefore our strongest bowling unit needs to and as a batting line-up, we need to take responsibility."
The combination according to him will depend on the pitch.
"Basically, we will look to go with horses for courses," said the skipper.
"We specialise in choosing people according to the way the wicket is going to behave, maybe on the third and fourth day as well. The best part is that everyone's bought into the idea. The grass on the pitch is very important to bind the surface, but I think the surface looks really dry and soft.
"It's not as hard as some of the other surfaces in West Indies. The wicket is no different from what we play back home, so I think it will be a decent batting wicket. There won't be much bounce. Looking at how the wicket is going to behave, as I said, on days 3 and 4, which is very important to determine the result of the Test match, so we have some plans in mind."
Kohli has words of praise for Mohammed Shami, who is coming back from an injury.
"Shami was unfortunately injured while he was having a great season. He bowled well in England, in Australia and in the World Cup, and in fact he has bowled well wherever he has gone. He got injured after that and was on a massive break.
"But now he is back and he is bowling very well. He has the ability to get batsmen out at any stage of the game which is very pleasing in Test cricket and important for a captain.
"So Shami being back in the side obviously gives us a lot of options as he can bowl with the new and old ball, bowl reverse swing, and he can come round the wicket, use bouncers and use his space well. I think as a fast bowler he is a complete package," he added, hinting about the inclusion of the returning fast bowler to partner Ishant.
Perhaps the only question remaining then is about the combination of the batting line-up.
Rohit Sharma looks set to miss out again, but the big talking point here is regarding the inclusion of in-form KL Rahul, who scored two half-centuries in the two practice matches following on his hot scoring sequence in limited-overs’ cricket earlier this summer.
"In international cricket, you cannot count players out because of one series. KL Rahul has improved leaps and bounds as a cricketer in the last 3-4 months. He's established himself as the third opener for India, he is a regular in the Test side, and he played in Sri Lanka as well, scored runs there," added Kohli.
"But as a captain and team management, we need to take some hard calls at times, but it's for the players to understand that equal opportunity will be given to everyone. It's just that, whoever starts a Test series, he has an edge over who has to wait for his chance. But at the same time, we have four Test matches and you will get a chance at some stage," said Kohli.
"Shikhar is a very dominant player and can dominate sessions and bring you into the Test match, especially in conditions like here in the West Indies. You saw how he played in Sri Lanka, he scored a very quick hundred, but got injured unfortunately.
"You can't count out a guy like Shikhar because of a couple of innings here and there. So we need to give guys a decent run, and know that if something goes wrong, we have a quality player like Rahul waiting in the wings," he added.
Last but not the least, this series will be an opportunity for the Indian team to get back in the Test groove with home series against New Zealand, England and Australia to follow. It will be important for them to focus on the learning from their last Test outings, against Sri Lanka and South Africa, back in 2016.
"After the Australian tour, we felt we were losing concentration and didn't realize how important those moments were for us in a Test match. Even in Sri Lanka, we played well for 80 per cent of the first Test and lost, not realizing that the remaining 20 per cent was even more important.
"The good thing is that we started correcting these things from the next Test, started sweeping and stepping out to spinners. We adapted immediately and changed our game plans. So that’s the key for this team," the skipper added.
The skipper while concluding said that the team has learnt from the mistakes committed in the past.
"We know where to improve and identify it quickly. We have committed some mistakes we cannot afford in Test cricket if you want to be a champion side. So we have tried to focus on key moments, and this comes with experience. The players are willing to learn and we will see this in the coming series as well," he signed off.