Birmingham: Putting his weight firmly behind under-pressure Vijay Shankar, skipper Virat Kohli Saturday said the all-rounder is very close to playing a defining knock for India in the World Cup.
Kohli's vote of confidence ahead of the England game means that Rishabh Pant will have to wait to get his first game.
Asked about his assessment of Shankar, Kohli said, "It's a strange one because he had a decent game against Pakistan. I think against Afghanistan on that pitch he looked really assured. Shot selection, again, we discussed with him for that game. Last game, again, he came out, he looked really good, and he got a beautiful ball from Kemar Roach."
Shankar scored 29 against Afghanistan and was involved in a 50 plus stand with his skipper.
"So you can't really sit down and pinpoint things. But I personally felt he looked really solid. There's not much that needs to be tinkered. Sometimes in cricket you just need a bit of luck to get over from 30 to 60, and then you play a defining knock for the team.
"He's very close to that, and we're very confident he's going to end up playing that kind of knock for us," said the world number one batsman.
He did not read much into Mahendra Singh Dhoni's slow strike-rate in the previous couple of games and Kohli once again reiterated that the former skipper "knows what he's doing".
"I don't think that he's ever been a cricketer that's ever had the need to be told what exactly he needs to do," he made his point clear.
"What we experience and what we know inside the change room is the most important thing to us, and we have total belief in him (Dhoni), and he stood up for the team many times, especially if you look at this calendar year and the kind of performances he's given. I don't think it's fair to point out one or two performances which anyone can falter with the bat," Kohli was certainly not pleased with the criticism aimed at Dhoni.
The middle-order issues remain and Kohli's defence for the under-fire number 4, 5 and 6 is "lack of balls due to good show from the top-order" on most occasions.
"Look, that discussion is always going to go on because we've had such a strong top order that these guys have hardly had a chance to bat. When they bat, out of four times, if once or twice it doesn't come off, then we feel like, oh, it's not a strong middle-order, but we overlook the times that it has come good," he added.
"If you look at the first three games that we played, the contribution was absolutely fine. We were getting 300 plus, and no one said anything. We were like, oh, this is an amazing batting order.
"Then one game where we could not accelerate as much, everyone says that maybe it's not as strong," he made his displeasure clear.
However this argument from the skipper doesn't hold much ground since the groundwork in most occasions was done by Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Kohli, himself.
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"It is not easy to play long innings here. It takes a lot out of you to play in these conditions. Maybe I was a bit tired in the end and it was a lesson for us that one set batsmen needs to bat deep till the end," Rohit said.
The sport has felt closer. The teams have looked inclusive. Every spring evening, we watch them rescue us from the clutches of mundanity. Every night, we sleep knowing that mortal humans live in our television sets. And we dream – of dropped catches, manic chases, two-paced fifties, and legends dying.
England are scheduled to tour India next year between January and March for five Tests, three ODIs and three T20 Internationals.