Mohammed Shami is returning from a back injury    PTI
Mohammed Shami is returning from a back injury Getty Images

Virat Kohli praised Mohammed Shami during press conference in Antigua on Wednesday ahead of first Test against West Indies. Shami is coming back from an injury. “Shami was unfortunately injured while he was having a great season. He bowled well in England, in Australia and in the World Cup, and in fact he has bowled well wherever he has gone. He got injured after that and was on a massive break. But now he is back and he is bowling very well. He has the ability to get batsmen out at any stage of the game which is very pleasing in Test cricket and important for a captain,” Kohli said. FULL CRICKET SCORECARD: India vs West Indies, 1st Test at Antigua

“So Shami being back in the side obviously gives us a lot of options as he can bowl with the new and old ball, bowl reverse swing, and he can come round the wicket, use bouncers and use his space well. I think as a fast bowler he is a complete package,” he added, hinting about the inclusion of the returning fast bowler to partner Ishant.

Perhaps the only question remaining then is about the combination of the batting line-up. Rohit Sharma looks set to miss out again, but the big talking point here is regarding the inclusion of in-form KL Rahul, who scored two half-centuries in the two practice matches following on his hot scoring sequence in limited-overs cricket earlier this summer.

“In international cricket, you cannot count players out because of one series. KL Rahul has improved leaps and bounds as a cricketer in the last 3-4 months. He’s established himself as the third opener for India, he is a regular in the Test side, and he played in Sri Lanka as well, scored runs there,” added Kohli.

“But as a captain and team management, we need to take some hard calls at times, but it’s for the players to understand that equal opportunity will be given to everyone. It’s just that, whoever starts a Test series, he has an edge over who has to wait for his chance. But at the same time, we have four Test matches and you will get a chance at some stage,” said Kohli. READ: Kohli: India must play ‘attacking cricket’ in Tests vs West Indies

“Shikhar is a very dominant player and can dominate sessions and bring you into the Test match, especially in conditions like here in the West Indies. You saw how he played in Sri Lanka, he scored a very quick hundred, but got injured unfortunately.

“You can’t count out a guy like Shikhar because of a couple of innings here and there. So we need to give guys a decent run, and know that if something goes wrong, we have a quality player like Rahul waiting in the wings,” he added.

Last but not the least, this series will be an opportunity for the Indian team to get back in the Test groove with home series against New Zealand, England and Australia to follow. It will be important for them to focus on the learning from their last Test outings, against Sri Lanka and South Africa, back in 2016.

“After the Australian tour, we felt we were losing concentration and didn’t realize how important those moments were for us in a Test match. Even in Sri Lanka, we played well for 80 per cent of the first Test and lost, not realizing that the remaining 20 per cent was even more important.

“The good thing is that we started correcting these things from the next Test, started sweeping and stepping out to spinners. We adapted immediately and changed our game plans. So that s the key for this team,” the skipper added.

The skipper while concluding said that the team has learnt from the mistakes committed in the past. “We know where to improve and identify it quickly. We have committed some mistakes we cannot afford in Test cricket if you want to be a champion side. So we have tried to focus on key moments, and this comes with experience. The players are willing to learn and we will see this in the coming series as well,” he signed off.