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Pros and cons of Virat Kohli and Anil Kumble's 'horses for courses' theory

Kohli and Kumble's approach has resulted in a different Test line-up for every match for over a year.

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Kohli and Kumble’s approach has reaped rewards for Team India

Over the past decade, the Indian cricket team’s approach to tactics, selection and playing objectives has been increasingly progressive. It wasn’t uncommon in the past for players to maintain spots in the team because of a self-imposed sense of entitlement. Also common was the assumed leeway granted to a batsman approaching a milestone – even if it may affect the outcome of the match or momentum of the team.

MS Dhoni was one of the first to soothingly probe this mindset – he planted the seeds of change but ultimately succumbed to them in the latter parts of his career (persistence with Mohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Murali Vijay, Ravindra Jadeja a case in point), but Virat Kohli, spurred by the exuberance of youth and the confidence of having the support of a veteran like Anil Kumble, has taken an extremely aggressive ‘team first’ approach which has resulted in a different Test line-up for every match for over a year. 

Some of the pros and cons of this approach are highlighted in the following slides. 


Pro: Pitch and opposition-specific specialists

One of the biggest advantages of the ‘horses for courses’ theory is, quite literally, the benefit of having horses ideal for a particular course. In the past, no one would’ve blinked an eye if India had stuck to a bowling line-up filled with two spinners and two fast bowlers for every kind of match. But it’s important to blink eyes now, given the vagaries of competitiveness that have now engulfed the gentlemen’s game.

A green pitch that would be a swing bowler’s delight warrants a minimum of three fast bowlers to sustain probing bowling partnerships – this would mean for teams heading in with four bowlers that a sacrifice would have to be made in one of their established spinners. But is the player’s ego more important than the team’s success?

Pitches and match conditions apart, this theory is, at times, applied to the opposition line-up as well. It would be a good idea to include left-handed batsman to create the rhythm-unsettling left-right combination, or left-arm off-spin or a leg-spinner for a team full of right-handed batsmen.

It’s important in this scenario to create a crystal clear culture of understanding – where no player feels unjustly treated for having being dropped. If it works, it would create a confident squad of 14-15 players that would always feel like they belong in the team, but are constantly shuffled for the sake of unsettling oppositions.

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