Kohli wants solidity in top order; distances himself from Nair controversy

Prithvi, Mayank, Vihari rewarded for domestic runs, not IPL effort - Kohli (1:44)

Virat Kohli addresses the media ahead of the two-Test series against West Indies starting on Thursday in Rajkot (1:44)

Virat Kohli has distanced himself from the Karun Nair situation, saying it is not his place to comment on a matter the selectors have already offered clarification on.

Nair, who scored a triple-hundred in December 2016, was part of India's squad for all six of their most recent Test matches. But he was never picked in the XI, even at The Oval, where they added an extra batsman in the XI. Upon returning from England, Nair said he had not received any word from the team management or the selectors about why he wasn't given a chance. It was only after naming the squad for the West Indies series that chief selector MSK Prasad got in touch with Nair and told him to keep scoring runs in domestic cricket.

"The selectors have already spoken about it and it is not my place to say," Kohli said a day before the first Test against West Indies in Rajkot. "There are three selectors who are doing their job and as I say, people conveniently merge everything and make it a circle... where everyone's given that opportunity or doing their job, not focussing on what's happening or being spoken on the outside. So if a person has spoken about a certain thing, it should be cleared then. It shouldn't be brought in here again.

"The chief selector has already spoken to the player of what I know. I don't think I am in a place to comment about that because selection is not my part of the job, it is upon three individuals to do what they are doing. And then as a team, we have to do what we are doing. I think everyone's doing their job and everyone should be aware of who's doing what, when their jobs are concerned and I think people should also be aware of that.

"It is not a joint thing everywhere, I think that's the confusion right now that people are combining everything in one space and thinking everything is happening from one place, which is not true."

Nair's exclusion wasn't the only talking point when the selectors announced India's Test squad. Another was Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah being rested.

Sunil Gavaskar, the former India captain, wasn't too pleased with the move.

"India resting both Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah is a surprise, for it shows that Test matches don't seem to matter for the selectors," Gavaskar wrote in his Times of India column on Wednesday. "Were both the bowlers asked if they wanted a break? If a break has to be given do that in the limited-overs internationals, but not Test cricket, for if Test cricket is to survive it needs the best players available all the time."

Kohli himself is coming off a period of rest - he sat out the recently concluded Asia Cup - and he spoke about the need to understand players' workloads given India's packed schedule ahead of next year's World Cup. Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah are among India's first-choice fast bowlers in all three formats.

"People usually talk about workload, but they don't understand the concept of workload. They refer to workload as number of games played, which is not workload," Kohli said. "If I get zero in a game, that is not workload. If I bat for six hours, that is workload. So I think a lot of things are taken in a different way, and people don't want to go into the detail of what exactly the term means when the trainer and the physio take a decision, because as you saw, someone like Hardik [Pandya] broke down [during the Asia Cup], but people cannot anticipate that.

"So from the outside you can never tell what the person is like with their bodies, so I definitely needed the break because my back went once in South Africa, then it went once 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, because you don't want guys breaking down at very important stages."

Kohli was far more comfortable discussing other matters that affected the team, like India's search for solidity in the top order. Although they had been a highly successful pairing, M Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan have been dropped. Neither player got to 50 in their last 10 innings, played in the tough conditions of South Africa and England, but with another tough tour of Australia coming up next month, India are eager to try out their bench strength. The 18-year old Prithvi Shaw is set to partner KL Rahul in Rajkot on Thursday. Mayank Agarwal, the other opener in the squad, is uncapped.

"If you look at sides who win Test matches, contributions on top and contributions in the lower order are more crucial than the guys who bat in the middle because whatever happens in the middle is connected to either what the top order or the lower order does," Kohli said. "The reasons why England won against us is because their lower order scored more than us and we realise that."

Over the last two years, India's batsmen from No. 6 and below have hit 50 or more 19 times while playing at home. That's second behind England's 22, and so Kohli isn't worried about that department. His concern is with finding solidity at the other end of the line-up.

"I think apart from the top of the order getting cemented, I don't think with these two Test matches there's a lot that we're looking at. Rest of the things feel quite settled. Just that at the top of the order these guys are new, so they'll take some time getting set, but they definitely have the skillset and from what we've seen of them, they're supremely talented.

"And the lower order, it's all about contributions. There's no change needed there because [R] Ashwin, [Ravindra] Jadeja...Rishabh [Pant]'s new so he's obviously got a lot of opportunities but Ashwin and Jadeja have done it for so many games in India, it's just about replicating that when we go to other countries."