Important to make Rahul feel secure - Kohli

M Vijay injured his hand in the first Test in the West Indies last year. He had been India's premier opener since they started a long leg of overseas Tests in December 2013. The hand healed in time for the third Test, but in the meanwhile KL Rahul came in and scored 158. Fit for the third Test, Vijay was left out to give Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan another go. This didn't get as much attention then because a more questionable selection was made in that Test: Cheteshwar Pujara was left out and Rohit Sharma was picked as one of the five specialist batsmen. Kohli batted at No. 3, India found themselves at 126 for 5, and perhaps a lesson or two was learnt.

In came a policy that a regular player would reclaim his spot upon proving his match fitness. Parthiv Patel scored important runs against England, even opened the innings when other openers were not available, but had to relinquish his slot as soon as Wriddhiman Saha was fit. There were other such examples - Jayant Yadav making way for Amit Mishra for one - through the home season. Now, it is all set to continue with Rahul coming back into the XI for the second Test, even though both openers scored runs when he missed the first Test because of an illness.

This involves resisting the temptation of giving the two other openers - Dhawan and Abhinav Mukund - another go in a relatively easier Test because the two best openers for bigger Tests are already identified: Vijay and Rahul. On the contrary, Kohli felt Rahul needed to be given assurance that his place was secure.

"It is very important for us to make him feel that this is his spot," Kohli said. "And it won't be changed because of unfortunate events that happen outside of the playing field or the injuries that you can't control. That phase you have to come back, get stronger. He has really stuck it out in that phase. It's been hard for him, we all know that, because he was batting so well and then he was out because of this.

"It is very important to make him feel secure and he deserves it because he has given us those big performances when the team has required it the most. He is a guy who needs to be backed and we as a team, as management, and me as captain all back him 100%."

Kohli didn't want any ambivalence around who the pre-eminent opener was. "Obviously KL has been our established opener," he said. "I feel one of the openers will have to make way for KL because what he's done in the past two years for us has been very solid, and he deserves to come back and start fresh in Test cricket again. We have a team meeting later on, after practice. We'll be able to clarify that then, but yes, according to me, KL will definitely come back into the XI."

That obviously begs the tricky question: who out of Dhawan and Abhinav goes out? The man who was the No. 3 opener before the series started or the man who came in and scored a 190? Is long-term form more relevant or is it a shootout based on the last game? If it is the last game, is it the man who took a sensational catch and a run-out or the man who had the bigger impact with the bat?

Kohli was as unsubtle as he could in saying that Dhawan will continue in the XI. "I feel in a situation like this, you need to sit down and think which player has had more impact on the game," Kohli said. "Who has been able to sort of make that difference in the game straightaway. It all depends on who has had a better game, to be honest."

Kohli did go on to say that the communication channels within the team will make sure the player who is left out understands the situation. "It's a pretty thin line, it is a very small margin, but unfortunately that is how the sport goes," Kohli said. "The guy who sits out will understand the reasons behind it. Not to say that those people are not being backed.

"But it's whatever the best combination we as a team feel we should take on the field, we back that and we take that call, and it is up to the individuals who are involved in that decision to understand it is for the best interest of the team. The guys are professional enough to know that but I think in a scenario like this, you will always think of a guy who has had more impact on setting up the game or winning the game for the team."