"If we play with just one combination, then world class sides are going to plan against us and capitalise on the chances we give them. We need to be flexible."
This was Virat Kohli’s response to the media that quizzed him during the West Indies tour. He minced no words while explaining the rationale behind the several changes made to the side on the Caribbean tour earlier this year. The signs of aggression were always clearly visible but with frequent changes to the team combination, Kohli displayed a new dimension of fearlessness, hitherto an unseen phenomenon in Indian cricket.
‘Never change a winning combination’ – this is perhaps the most common adage that experts cough up. And to a large extent, Indian captains have honoured this almost as if it were a cricketing tradition that is best left untampered.
But not Virat Kohli. Since taking over from MS Dhoni on the Australia tour in 2014/15, there’s been plenty of evidence that he’s one skipper that favours the ‘horses for courses’ theory.
When Kohli took the field to lead the side in the second Test at Vizag, an interesting statistic surfaced. The 28-year-old skipper has never fielded the same eleven in consecutive Tests. Considering that he’s led India in 20 Tests so far, one would think a young skipper would opt for a safer route. But clearly, Kohli likes to think otherwise.
We look at all Tests that the Indian Test skipper has led so far to study the combinations that he’s employed.
Test #1 as captain
Australia v India: Border-Gavaskar Trophy - 1st Test played at Adelaide Oval (09-13 December, 2014)
Summary: MS Dhoni doesn’t recover from a finger injury and Kohli has to lead the side. He fields a seven batsmen-four bowler combination. Karn Sharma is the surprise pick ahead of R Ashwin.
Indian XI: M Vijay, S Dhawan, CA Pujara, V Kohli*, AM Rahane, RG Sharma, WP Saha†, KV Sharma, Mohammed Shami, I Sharma, VR Aaron
Result: Australia win by 48 runs.
Test #2 as captain
Australia v India: Border-Gavaskar Trophy - 4th Test played at Sydney Cricket Ground (06-10 January, 2015)
Summary: MS Dhoni makes a surprising announcement calling it quits after the third Test at MCG and Kohli officially takes over the mantle. He employs a seven batsmen-four bowler combination.
Changes: Karn Sharma was the spinner in Kohli’s first Test as skipper, but R Ashwin reclaimed his spot here. Varun Aaron and Ishant Sharma were the seamers in the first Test but were replaced by Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav. In the batting order, Dhawan made way for KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma took Chetershwar Pujara’s spot and Suresh Raina was roped in.
Indan XI: M Vijay, KL Rahul, RG Sharma, V Kohli*, AM Rahane, SK Raina, WP Saha, R Ashwin, B Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav
Result: Match drawn
Test #3 as captain
Bangladesh v India: June 2015 played at Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium, Fatullah (10-15 June, 2015)
Summary: KL Rahul was down with dengue fever and this meant that Shikhar Dhawan playing in the XI. Kohli employs a five-bowlers and six batsmen combination. Harbhajan Singh was the second off-spinner in the side.
Changes: Three changes when compared to the previous Test at the SCG. Dhawan in for Rahul, Raina makes way for Harbhajan Singh, Varun Aaron walked in for Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma for Bhuvaneshwar Kumar.
Indian XI: M Vijay, S Dhawan, RG Sharma, V Kohli*, AM Rahane, WP Saha, R Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, V Aaron
Result: Drawn match with large portions of the game interrupted by rain.
Test #4 as captain
India v Sri Lanka - 1st Test played at Galle International Stadium (12-15 August 2015)
Summary: Murali Vijay’s hamstring injury meant that India took the field without their premier opener. Keeping in mind the turning tracks, India played three frontline spinners with the odd fast bowler in Varun Aaron being the lone pacer.
Changes: Two changes in the team compared to their previous assignment. K.L Rahul came into the side, replacing Murali Vijay and Umesh Yadav made way for Amit Mishra
Indian XI: KL Rahul, S Dhawan, I Sharma, RG Sharma, V Kohli*, AM Rahane, WP Saha†, Harbhajan Singh, R Ashwin, A Mishra, VR Aaron
Result: Sri Lanka won by 63 runs
Test #5 as captain
India v Sri Lanka - 2nd Test played at P Sara Oval, Colombo (20-24 August, 2015)
Summary: After losing the opening Test, India had to go back to the drawing board. Shikhar Dhawan’s fractured right hand didn’t make things any easier for the Men in Blue. India had to grind hard to make a comeback.
Changes: Shikhar Dhawan’s injury ensured that Murali Vijay came back to the team. Umesh Yadav came back to the side in place of Harbhajan Singh and Stuart Binny replaced Ajinkya Rahane.
Indian XI: M Vijay, KL Rahul, AM Rahane, V Kohli*, RG Sharma, STR Binny, WP Saha†, R Ashwin, A Mishra, I Sharma, UT Yadav
Result: India won by 278 runs
Test #6 as captain
India v Sri Lanka - 3rd Test played at Sinhalese Sports Club Ground, Colombo (28TH August- 1st September 2015)
Summary: India came back strong to pin down the Lankans at Colombo. Nevertheless, Wriddhiman Saha suffered a hamstring injury and was ruled out of the 3rd and final Test. Other than the injured keeper and Murali Vijay, India went on with the winning combination from the previous match.
Changes: Wriddhiman Saha made way for Naman Ojha and Cheteshwar Pujara came back in place of injured Murali Vijay.
Indian XI: KL Rahul, CA Pujara, AM Rahane, V Kohli*, RG Sharma, STR Binny, NV Ojha†, R.Ashwin, A Mishra, I Sharma, UT Yadav
Result: India won by 117 runs
Test #7 as captain
South Africa v India - 1st Test played at Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, Mohali, Chandigarh (5-7 November, 2015)
Summary: The Mohali track was astonishingly dry and the odds were against the Proteas. The bulk of the work depended on the three spinning stalwarts in Jadeja, Ashwin and Mishra.
Changes: Shikhar Dhawan replaced K.L Rahul, Wriddhiman Saha came back into the side after an injury. Ishant Sharma makes way for Varun Aaron and Ravindra Jadeja was roped in for Stuart Binny.
Indian XI: M Vijay, S Dhawan, CA Pujara, V Kohli*, AM Rahane, WP Saha†, RA Jadeja, A Mishra, R Ashwin, UT Yadav, VR Aaron
Result: India won by 108 runs
Test #8 as captain
India v South Africa - 2nd Test played at M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore (14-18 November 2015)
Summary: The Indian team were oozing with confidence after the comprehensive win at the P.C.A Stadium in Mohali. The good news for India was that Ishant Sharma was all set to make a comeback after a one-match suspension.
Changes: Ishant Sharma comes in place of Umesh Yadav and India ropes in all-rounder Stuart Binny walks for Amit Mishra.
Indian XI: M Vijay, S Dhawan, CA Pujara, V Kohli*, AM Rahane, WP Saha†, RA Jadeja, STR Binny, R Ashwin, I Sharma, VR Aaron
Result: Match drawn
Test #9 as captain
India v South Africa - 3rd Test played at Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium, Jamtha, Nagpur (25-29 November, 2015)
Summary: India had got the Proteas by the scruff of their necks and a delicious spitting cobra waited for South Africa at Nagpur. India decided to go in with the leggie in Amit Mishra.
Changes: Amit Mishra replaced Varun Aaron while Stuart Binny made way for Rohit Sharma
Indian XI: M Vijay, S Dhawan, CA Pujara, V Kohli*, AM Rahane, RG Sharma, WP Saha†, RA Jadeja, R Ashwin, A Mishra, I Sharma
Result: India won by 124 runs
Test #10 as captain
India v South Africa - 4th Test played at Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi (3-7 December, 2015)
Summary: After winning two out of three Tests, India looked to finish it off in grand style at the Kotla. The pitch wasn’t as flat as the previous tracks in the series, but South Africa were still up against it. Salvaging pride was all what South Africa was left with.
Changes: Umesh Yadav was the solitary change in place of Amit Mishra.
Indian XI: M Vijay, S Dhawan, CA Pujara, V Kohli*, AM Rahane, RG Sharma, WP Saha†, RA Jadeja, R Ashwin, UT Yadav, I Sharma
Result: India won by 337 runs