NEW DELHI, India - Skipper Virat Kohli said Wednesday India are looking to "cement" the team's misfiring top order as teenage opener Prithvi Shaw was named in the final 12 for the first Test against the West Indies.
The world's number one Test side suffered from inconsistent top order during their overseas tours of South Africa and England, losing 1-2 and 1-4 respectively. The two-match West Indies series starting in Rajkot on Thursday gives India an opportunity to work on their problem areas ahead of the all-important tour of Australia starting next month.
"I think the top order getting cemented with these two Test matches, that's what we are looking at," Kohli told reporters. "These guys are new, so they will take a bit of time to get into it. But they definitely have the skill set," he said. "They should look at it as an opportunity and not think of pressure, because they're very young, and it's a great chance for them to cement their place and play for a long time."
The 18-year-old Shaw, who was chosen ahead of uncapped Mayank Agarwal and one-Test old Hanuma Vihari from the 15-man squad, is expected to open the batting alongside Lokesh Rahul.
Shaw has accumulated 1418 runs in 14 first-class games including seven centuries and made a strong showing for Delhi Daredevils in the Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament. Left-handed opener Shikhar Dhawan managed just 162 runs in eight innings in seaming English conditions and was subsequently dropped ahead of the West Indies series.
"We know as a team and everyone on the outside also knows the areas we need to improve on, and definitely if you look at sides that win Test matches contributions at the top and contributions in the lower order are more crucial," said Kohli. "Because whatever happens in the middle is connected to either the top order or what the lower order does."
Kohli, who was criticised for sitting out the Asia Cup won by the Rohit Sharma-led India in the UAE, said rest in between long tours will be key for keeping players fit ahead of the World Cup in 2019.
"I am feeling rejuvenated again. It was mental and physical both because of the intensity of the two tours, both South Africa and England," said Kohli. "I definitely needed the break because my back went once in South Africa then it went again (in) England. Looking at the World Cup I think these things are very important to consider, to give players ample rest and opportunity to train well and come back stronger."
India team for Rajkot Test: Virat Kohli (captain), Lokesh Rahul, Prithvi Shaw, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (wicketkeeper), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Shardul Thakur.AFP