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Going in with six specialist batsmen and Wriddhiman Saha for the Kanpur Test, Kohli has, for the first time shown signs of being defensive. Image courtesy: Twitter

As always, there were lot of predictions going around with respect to the ideal team composition for India ahead of the first Test against New Zealand that went underway in Kanpur today. Most of them prophesised the same 5-1-5 combination that Team India has been adopting for a while now under Virat Kohli. But when Kohli came out with the team sheet for the toss on the momentous occasion of India’s historic 500th Test, he went against his own philosophy by fielding a 6-1-4 combination as Rohit Sharma sneaked into the final XI.

As the day progressed, Indian batsmen threw away their starts, got dismissed in unforgivable fashion and ended the day at 291 for 9 after they were 154 for 1 at one stage. Without taking anything away from Trent Boult, who was exceptional with the second new ball, and Mitchell Santner, who chipped in with crucial wickets, the Indian batsmen were themselves to be blamed for the position they have brought the team into after the first day’s play. Looking at the score, the idea of playing an extra batsman in Rohit seems to have backfired and the possibility of being a bowler short when India comes out to bowl stares ahead.

So, what exactly went wrong? Where did Kohli score high on team composition? And where did he fail?

To begin with, Kohli should have stuck to his five-bowler theory, which has played a major role in the success he has got in his short career as Team India captain so far. Both overseas and at home, he has gone in with five bowlers — three spinners and two pacers in India and three pacers and two spinners away from home. This strategy has sent out a message of aggression to the opposition teams till now. It has been a reflection of his attacking approach, of the spirit of wanting to win at all cost. But going in with six specialist batsmen and wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha for the Kanpur Test, he has, for the first time shown signs of being defensive. FULL CRICKET SCORES: India Vs New Zealand, 1st Test 2016, Day 1

On the contrary, New Zealand came out with an aggressive intent. When in India, do what the Indians do. They fielded three spinners, only to be surprised to find just two frontline spinners in the Indian camp (Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are capable enough of  hunting in a pair and getting those 20 wickets on their day, but that is a different matter and moreover, ‘on their day’ is the operative term here). So should Kohli have played Amit Mishra ahead of Rohit Sharma, who gifted his wicket away once again in a baffling manner? The answer is probably yes. Given the way the Kanpur pitch is wearing, there will be vicious turn from day Three, and India have possibly missed a trick here.

So, where Kohli got it wrong was in playing Rohit ahead of Mishra and chucking his five-bowler theory.

But he did make some good choices while picking his XI. Sanity prevailed and Shikhar Dhawan was left out from the XI. KL Rahul started as the first-choice opener and that was only apt, given his recent run of prolific scores across the formats. The Murali Vijay-Rahul opening combination looks best at the moment, with the former having temperament of a monk while the latter being the aggressor of the two.

Another interesting choice he made while selecting the XI was keeping out Bhuvneshwar Kumar and picking Umesh Yadav ahead of him. Many must have wondered what wrong Bhuvneshwar did do to lose his spot in the XI. He had taken a five-for against the West Indies in pretty unresponsive conditions in the third Test at Gros Islet and was instrumental in setting up an Indian win. He had a superb season for IPL champion Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH). Was it not cruel to leave him out from the side despite some good performances? FULL CRICKET UPDATES: India Vs New Zealand, 1st Test 2016, Day 1

However, the decision Kohli made had a rationale. Over the course of his Test career, at home in particular, Bhuvneshwar has proven to be ineffective once the ball gets older. In the subcontinent, where reverse-swing plays a huge role, his low pace becomes a worrying factor.

The bulk of the wickets in India invariably go to the spinners. The only assistance pacers get on the flat decks is in the form of reverse-swing, which comes into picture when the ball gets old. The reverse-swing causes maximum damage when the bowler is operating at high pace.

Even the New Zealand coach Mike Hesson and skipper Kane Williamson had identified how important role reverse swing is going to play in India. “It [reverse-swing] is a huge component of playing cricket overseas,” Hesson had told reporters before leaving his country. “On surfaces that aren’t responsive in terms of seam movement and they are abrasive and they lose their shine very quickly, you need to find another way. Hence overseas teams are pretty keen to find ways to get the ball to reverse, obviously in a legitimate fashion.”

Two candidates from Team India squad fit the bill perfectly when it comes to be good exponents of this art — Mohammed Shami and Umesh. Both these bowlers have shown how good they can be reversing the old ball at a decent pace. Shami was a definite starter for the Test after Ishant Sharma was ruled out due to chikungunya, but there was a tussle between Bhuvneshwar and Umesh. Fans and experts hoped to see the former in the final XI based on his recent exploits.

But when the India playing XI was displayed on the television sets, it was Umesh who had pipped Bhuvneshwar. Along with Shami, Umesh will have a crucial role to play now. If Ashwin and Jadeja find it difficult to run through the Kiwi batsmen, these two will have to come into play and make the inroads using reverse swing.

This is where Kohli has got the combination right.

Overall, his idea of balancing the team composition has proved to be only half-right. But this verdict only applies for the time being. If Rohit makes it count in the second innings, if Mishra’s services are not required in the game provided Ashwin-Jadeja duo gets the job done, the scenario changes. But they are right when they say there is no place for ifs and buts in cricket.

(A self-confessed cricket freak, Chinmay Jawalekar is a senior writer with CricLife and CricketCountry. When not writing or following cricket, he loves to read, eat and sleep. He can be followed here @CricfreakTweets)