Among Indian captains who have led in more than 30 ODIs, nobody has a better win percentage than Virat Kohli's 71.02. He has won 62 of 90 matches as skipper and is 14 wins away from overtaking Sourav Ganguly at No 3. MS Dhoni is on top with 110 wins and it is a number Kohli can well overtake if he retains the captaincy till the 2023 World Cup. But at the moment, he is severely handicapped in the bowling department.
On Friday, as India began the tour of Australia with a 66-run defeat in Sydney, one could understand Kohli's frustration. In 2020, India are fielding a team from a different era, with just five bowling options. With Hardik Pandya still recovering from a back injury and in the process of resuming bowling again, Kohli is missing his bowling more than ever. Particularly on days when Australian batsmen target rookie Navdeep Saini on a flat deck and the captain had no option but to continue with him.
Barring Mohammed Shami, the rest of the attack including Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravindra Jadeja couldn't control the run flow and sloppy fielding added to their misery. As Aaron Finch and David Warner batted effortlessly, you knew India were in for a long day, nowhere to hide in the huge outfield. Unlike his immediate predecessors, Kohli is saddled with a set of batsmen who don't bowl. This has always been the case after he took over as captain in 2016, but he still had Pandya and even Kedar Jadhav in the mix.
But with Jadhav out of reckoning and Pandya playing as a specialist batsman, Kohli doesn't have a sixth bowler. Manish Pandey and Shubman Gill, batsmen who warmed the bench on Friday, don't bowl either. The only way out is playing an extra bowler on Sunday. But that leaves them with a long tail, as none of the frontline bowlers barring Ravindra Jadeja are handy with the bat.
Pandya, who top-scored with 90, said India have to groom someone from within as there are not many outside who can do the job. Vijay Shankar and Shivam Dube are options, but not in the scheme of things now. "I think, we will have to find someone who has already played for India and groom them and find a way to make them play. It is always going to be difficult when you go with five bowlers, because if somebody is having an off day, you won't have someone to fulfil that role. If someone is having a bad day and there is a sixth option, other guys gets more cushion,” Pandya said.
This is the fourth straight ODI India have lost and until they address this issue, Kohli may have to endure more of this. As far as Pandya's bowling, he isn't sure when he would resume doing that. “I am thinking long term, not short term where I exhaust myself and maybe have something else which is not there. So it is going to be a process, which I am following. I can't say exactly when I am going to bowl but the process is on. In the nets, I am bowling. It is just that I am not game-ready. It is all about confidence and the skill has to be at an international level. I want to be at 100 per cent of my bowling capacity. We are thinking long term. We are thinking about the T20 World Cup and other important tournaments where my bowling will be of even more importance,” Pandya added.