Managing the workload of their fast bowlers is going to be key for India to win the World Test Championship, India's captain Virat Kohli believes.
After the win in the Antigua Test, which made him India's most successful captain in overseas Tests, Kohli spoke of the importance of having his bowlers making maximum impact in Test matches.
One of those was Jasprit Bumrah, who sat out the limited-overs leg of the ongoing tour and came back to blow West Indies away in the second innings with a spell that read 8-4-7-5. He was not at his best in the first innings, which he put down to a slightly stiff back coming back into action after a long break, but in the second innings he was lethal, relying on the outswinger, which is not his stock delivery.
"That's probably the most important thing for us right now, managing player workloads," Kohli said at the post-match presentation. "That's why he (Bumrah) didn't play any white-ball cricket after the World Cup because we wanted him to be fresh for the Tests. He is going to be a key factor for us as long as the Test championship continues. We know how good a bowler he is. And the impact he can make in a spell."
Kohli said India had the required personnel in the pace department to be able to dominate but spoke of the need to monitor the workloads closely. "[Mohammed] Shami is the same [as Bumrah]," Kohli continued. "Ishant [Sharma] is a banker for years now. And he can make an impact in any spell he bowls. Those three together are bowling really well. Umesh [Yadav] hasn't had a game, and we have Navdeep Saini, who can bowl 150 clicks, waiting in the wings. We are pretty settled as far as our bowling options are concerned. Managing workloads and the number of overs we bowl is going to be a key factor for us."
"For us it is about managing the best combination we can as a side, and feeling settled about it. We all have a discussion on that particular thing, and we go ahead with what is the best thing for the team"
Other than workloads, the team's selection of the XIs has come under scrutiny in the past. In this Test, too, they had to make two difficult decisions. They ended up leaving out R Ashwin and Rohit Sharma. Ashwin's exclusion left the experts, including Sunil Gavaskar, surprised. Kohli said the selections were being made in the team's best interests. While he went on to offer a reason for Hanuma Vihari's inclusion ahead of Rohit, he avoided speaking about leaving out Ashwin.
"The combination is absolutely based on players who can provide more than one skill," Kohli said. "That's why Vihari got the nod for this particular game because he can bowl you those eight-ten overs when you are falling behind the over rate. As a part-timer, he is pretty effective as well.
"Look, for us it is about managing the best combination we can as a side, and feeling settled about it. We all have a discussion on that particular thing, and we go ahead with what is the best thing for the team. There will always be opinions on a team selected, but we all understand that whatever decisions are taken are in the best interest of the team."
To live with selection calls is definitely one of the challenges of captaincy, but it is a job that has brought Kohli a lot of satisfaction over the years. Going past Sourav Ganguly as the most successful India captain in away Tests is just one of them.
"It is a responsibility that I am fulfilling," Kohli said of captaincy. "It is a blessing that I am in a position where I can contribute to the team in more than one way. I like taking that responsibility but nothing is possible without the team. If these guys hadn't bowled or batted the way they have, we wouldn't have won the Tests we have. The credit can't be taken away from them at all because I am just making decisions on the field. Execution is in their hand. Always been a team game for us."