India will look to play the younger members of their squad throughout the Australia tour, their captain, Virat Kohli, said on the eve of the first ODI. India will be playing three ODIs, three T20Is and four Tests on a tour that stretches till January 19. Also fitted into that schedule are two three-day warm-up games, the first of which overlaps with the T20Is. Kohli said the management had “discussed those things”.
“We are looking at giving opportunities to younger players. There are a lot of young guys in the squad who are eager and really waiting to get onto the park and play in a place like Australia,” Kohli said. “It’s a great opportunity for them to realise something new about their own games and how they can take their games to the next level and grow that confidence level and keep helping the team going forward.
“So from that point of view, yes, it is a very important series for them as individuals to grow and for us as the management group and the captain to give them that opportunity to go out there and play to the best of their abilities and play freely and enjoy their cricket. We’re definitely looking forward to seeing these guys on the field and how they shape up because they’re a bunch of very talented guys.”
India’s squads across formats consist of players who are either on their first tour with the side – T Natarajan, for instance, and Mohammed Siraj on his first Test tour – or are close to breaking into the first team – Shubman Gill and Navdeep Saini are two of them. As such, it is a sizable contingent that Kohli suggested will be used liberally through India’s time in Australia.
Another factor governing that decision is workload management, especially for their two premier bowlers – Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami – who both had full IPL seasons, and will likely take on more responsibility in the absence of Ishant Sharma.
“It’s a no-brainer [managing Bumrah and Shami’s workloads],” Kohli said. “They’ve gone through a full IPL season as well. Both of them have bowled beautifully, bowling in great rhythm. It’ll be very important to monitor the workload and hence the point about some of the younger guys getting a chance comes into play as well.
“We want to see how people react in different situations because you’re up against a different situation every time you come for an India tour. You have to manage workloads, you have to look forward to the youngsters performing on the field. So there’s a fine balance you need to maintain, something we’ve been able to do well in the last few years and that’s why our bowlers have been fit and available for the important matches – most of the time – for us.”
The Indian team came out of their mandatory 14-day quarantine on Thursday, and are understood to have been training since November 14. This pandemic-enforced reality had helped with the team’s preparation, Kohli said, adding that spending time getting accustomed to a country on tour was an under-rated factor. He did, however, like his deputy KL Rahul, stress that the team is focussed on building momentum in the ODIs that they can carry into the Test series.
“I don’t think that there’s any extra desperation or need to think on those lines for us as a team,” he said. “Because we’ve to understand that the last time we were successful here, it was because of a reason. We were focusing on our process and we were really really strong in our minds to be able to win difficult situations and be at our best in those difficult situations. And that doesn’t change.
“Australia is going to try and come at us really hard and we expect that, and we’re ready for that. We’re ready for some tough cricket on the field and something that we’re looking forward to as a side. But I don’t think we’re attaching any incentives to motivate ourselves just because it’s an opportunity to set the tone before the test series. Every series is different. The importance of starting well is purely because you come to foreign conditions and you want to get confident as a team really quickly so that you can carry it forward to other formats. And that’s something we’re looking forward to.”