Sri Lanka v India, 1st ODI, Hambantota July 21, 2012

Centurion Kohli backs five-bowler strategy

Virat Kohli has supported India's decision to play five bowlers, including Irfan Pathan, in the first ODI against Sri Lanka, saying that in batting conditions, a side needs to back its top six to come good. Four of the top six, including centurion Kohli, did come good today, and the bowling was led by the allrounder Irfan, who turned in decisive figures of 10-1-37-2 even as three of the other frontline bowlers went for runs.

"In batting conditions, you have to bank on your six batsmen," Kohli said. "You've to show faith in them and expect them to perform. You just can't be on the safer side playing seven batsmen and compromise on a bowler because I think as a captain you need an extra option of a bowler knowing the wicket is going to be good in the second innings as well. The balance we had today was perfect and having a bowler always gives that cushion to the captain if the situation doesn't go well."

India captain MS Dhoni too was pleased with the balance of the side in the first ODI, and said Irfan showing signs of form was a big advantage for his team. "One good positive was Irfan Pathan doing well," Dhoni said after the match. "Without [Ravindra] Jadeja or Yuvraj [Singh], it is difficult to make the side balanced in both departments, so this was important."

The situation did go awry briefly for India when Thisara Perera and Kumar Sangakkara clawed their way back with a 78-run seventh-wicket stand in 53 deliveries after Sri Lanka had slipped to 191 for 6. The Indian innings had a similar partnership towards the finish, when Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni put on 79 off 55 to help take India past 300. Kohli said that showed how good the pitch was for batting, and praised the India bowlers for putting pressure early on the home batsmen.

"Our bowlers gave us a good start with the new ball, which was swinging a bit. They bowled in good areas. When we batted we had also scored a lot of runs in the last 10 overs. The wicket was good to bat on so I would like to credit our bowlers because the way they bowled in the first phase built pressure on the opposition who lost nine wickets as well.

"They are world-class players so you can't expect to win by 80-90 runs. We had to work hard in the end and put in effort for fielding. The bowlers also had to put a lot of thought into their bowling. A phase of seven-eight overs comes in between when you concede more runs but it is important that you don't panic, remain calm. Irfan [Pathan], Umesh [Yadav] and Zaheer bhai [Khan] bowled three-four good overs at a crucial time due to which the match turned in our favour again."

Kohli admitted, though, that bowling at the death still remained a concern for India, especially in the subcontinent. "We are playing a lot of cricket in the subcontinent in the coming season and it is very important to hit the right areas at the death because that's where the game can turn around. Even eight or nine runs an over can be chased in the last 10 overs. We have seen that being done before nd hopefully we can practice that more in the nets and execute our plans perfectly in the games ahead."

Dhoni agreed that India's bowling in the end overs needed to be better. "It was a good learning experience for the younger bowlers. Zak [Zaheer] was good. [But] The death bowling for us needs to improve."

Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo