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Posted at: Jan 14, 2018, 1:45 AM; last updated: Jan 14, 2018, 1:45 AM (IST)

Kohli’s 34 teams in 34 Tests, without repetitions

Indian captain has never led same XI in consecutive Tests. What’s more, he’s never played one set of 11 players more than once!

Centurion, January 13

Three big changes in the Indian team for the second Test cemented Virat Kohli’s reputation as a man who wants change. Two of the changes in the XI were intended — Ishant Sharma in place of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and KL Rahul replacing Shikhar Dhawan. The third change was forced upon Kohli, for it was through an injury to Wriddhiman Saha that Parthiv Patel got a chance to play his 24th Test in his 16th year as a Test player.

Different conditions

What is really amazing about captain Kohli’s changes is that he’s never repeated a playing XI — in other words, each of his 34 Test teams is unique. What could have caused Kohli to make a change after each Test? Even more amazingly, how has he managed to include a different set of 11 players in each of his 34 teams? 

There have been many factors that forced Kohli’s hand, such as injuries, loss of form, playing conditions, and withdrawal due to personal reasons such as marriage, etc. 

Kohli took over as captain in Australia in 2015 and conditions there demanded three pacemen in the XI. His next eight Tests were in the Subcontinent, where the focus was on spin. After four Tests in the West Indies in 2016, it was back to the spin as India played 18 Tests in a row in the Subcontinent from September 2016 to December 2017.

The regular changes also indicate that some components of the team are not settled, such as the opening batsmen and pace bowlers.

34 Tests, 34 teams

With Kohli captain in 34 Tests, 28 different players have figured in his playing XI. There have been six debutants in his captaincy — Karn Sharma, KL Rahul, Naman Ojha, Jayant Yadav, Karun Nair, Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah. Kuldeep Yadav made his debut under Ajinkya Rahane against Australia in last year’s Dharamsala Test, which Kohli missed due to a shoulder injury.

Ravichandran Ashwin, with 33 Tests, is the most regular member of Kohli’s teams, followed by Rahane (30), Cheteshwar Pujara and Saha (29 each), Vijay (25), Umesh Yadav (24) and Ravindra Jadeja (22).

Kohli likes to talk about the ‘horses for courses’ theory, but sometimes, some of the changes seem quite odd. Today,  for instance, it was quite surprising to see Bhuvneshwar, India’s best pace bowler over the last few Tests, being replaced by Ishant. Bhuvneshwar had taken six wickets in Cape Town, and South African fast bowling great Allan Donald had this reaction on Twitter: “Bhuvi left out.. You are kidding me?”

But this and the other two changes did create a completely unique XI for Kohli! — Agencies, TNS


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