India are gearing up for their three-match Test series against South Africa with captain Virat Kohli tipped to impress with the red ball.
Kohli announced before the T20 World Cup that he would be relinquishing his skipper duties in that format and was then unexpectedly stripped of the ODI captaincy.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and newly-appointed head coach Rahul Dravid decided they didn’t want two white-ball captains in the team and replaced Kohli with Rohit Sharma as the official limited-overs captain.
While the decision was controversial, India are still the favourites with the best cricket betting sites in India to win the series in South Africa at 10/11 with Kohli leading the charge.
Former India wicket-keeper Saba Karim believes his country’s star man will be revitalised by being able to focus on Test match cricket.
“It seems a burden has been removed from Virat Kohli’s head,” Karim said. “He can play with an open mind now, he can revive his Test career afresh. The expectation is that he will dish out performances like he was doing two years back.
“If he bats with an open mind and approach, he can repeat those performances. I have full belief that the form he has shown in the practice sessions, the same form will be seen in the match as well.”
And New Zealand bowler Tim Southee echoed those sentiments, claiming Kohli’s white-ball captaincy exit will ease the pressure from his shoulders.
“I don’t know what it was like to captain India and the pressures that come with it,” Southee said.
“Not only that, but IPL as well. He’s done it over a period of time. It will be interesting from a fan point of view to see him put all his energies on captaincy and channel them into his batting and fielding.
“I am sure it’s a weight off his shoulders, and the person that he is, he will be contributing in some leadership form or another throughout the rest of his playing days.
“I am sure it will be great for the new captain of RCB (Royal Challengers Bangalore, with Kohli also stepping down from that role with the IPL team in 2021), and Rohit Sharma and Team India, to have someone like Virat to turn to and have a shoulder to lean on out of the field as well.
“You see him as a very passionate guy who loves the game and brings energy for the side. Just how much time he puts in the game. I got to know him away from the game as well (at RCB), sitting over a coffee, drink or dinner and talk and find out about his interests.”
Kohli’s form hasn’t been the best over the last few years, having last hit a hundred in 2019. Now 33, he remains one of the fittest players around and Southee is backing him to recapture his finest play.
“I guess it happens when you bat the way Virat bats and score the volume of runs he gets, you have set such high standards,” Southee added.
“Then, for some games or however long he has not been as amazing as we are used to seeing.
“We [New Zealand] have been very lucky as a bowling group against Virat. The addition of Kyle Jamieson has done a lot to us. I haven’t had to bowl for him as much because Kyle has been the man to take care of him.”