Great chance for youngsters to cement their place: Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli has great expecations from youngsters Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal. (Getty Images)

As India announced their 12-member team for the first Test against West Indies starting tomorrow, captain Virat Kohli welcomed BCCI’s move of handing youngsters such as Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal their long-awaited opportunity to represent the national team. The highlight of the team to feature in Rajkot on Thursday was the inclusion of Under-19 World Cup winning captain Prithvi Shaw, who will become the 293rd player to play for India and partner KL Rahul at the top.

Shaw was widely tipped to make his international debut against England following an excellent show for the India A teams during 2018. But it was another youngster, Hanuma Vihari, who got the nod ahead of Shaw and scored a half-century on debut in the final Test at the Oval. Besides Vihari and Shaw, BCCI also handed a maiden Test call-up to Mayank Agarwal, although the batsman has not been included for the first Test.

“We will like to take the series as a benchmark we want to set and we want to keep repeating those things. With a couple of new guys coming at the top of the order, they have the opportunity to show the skill-set that they have,” Kohli said while addressing the media on the eve of the first Test.

“It’s an exciting opportunity for them, something that they should look at a chance and not a thing of pressure because they are very young and it’s a great chance for them to cement a place and play for a long time. It’s heartening to see that in four-day cricket, so many guys are scoring heaps of runs and continuously doing that apart from playing the IPL. I think it’s a very healthy sign and something that will keep Indian cricket in good shape. These guys will surely take the responsibility and take Indian cricket forward.”

Post the tour of England, India were scheduled to embark on the high-profile tour of Australia in November, before the BCCI slotted a short two-Test series at home. Despite being considered an opportunity to fine-tune a few things ahead of the tour Down Under, Kohli pointed out that although playing a Test is always a great opportunity for players, it is preferable to indulge in a bigger series considering there is room to focus on things on a larger scale.

“When it comes to Test matches, whether a two-match series makes sense or not, we don’t think about it,” added the Indian captain. “That is because you have to play well to win a Test match and you can’t focus on any other thing. We’ve played one Test match series also in the past which is not heard of much. But yes, as a side you want to see a three or four Tests because then you have ample time to test your skills and see the areas you need to improve on.

Kohli added that the need to alter things for the first Test was done considering the need to give these young players time to feel good and confident about themselves. While opinions have been divided over Kohli’s incessant habit of chopping and changing things, the 29-year-old believes India is a settled unit, particularly in the batting department.

“We have a change in the top of the order and it was decided that we will give these guys enough space and chances to feel comfortable at that position because we want them to be confident about their positions,” Kohli said. “I think, apart from the top order getting cemented I don’t think that these two Test matches there is a lot that we are looking at. I still feel it’s quite settled. It’s just that these guys were due so they’ll take a bit of time to get into it.”