India vs Sri Lanka: Challenge ahead for Virat Kohli in MS Dhoni's absence

By Suyash Srivastava | Updated: Nov 04, 2014, 00:26 AM IST

If you don't consider his record in Test matches, especially overseas, MS Dhoni is someone who has led the Indian cricket team exceptionally well over the years in ODIs. Thus, as India take on Sri Lanka for a five-match series beginning from November 2 without their regular skipper for the first three matches, there would be huge pressure on Virat Kohli – undoubtedly India's future captain, to not only lead the team in a comprehensive manner, but also continue his good form which was halted midway during the ODI series against West Indies.

Kohli – the run-machine of Indian cricket over the years, hasn't been in the best of form this year. It all started from the IPL where while leading a power-packed Royal Challengers Bangalore, the flamboyant right-hander struggled to find momentum and managed to score just two half-centuries in 14 matches. As a result of his miserable form, RCB ended second from bottom in the points table. Kohli's staunchest supporters were happy that the poor form had come in a tournament like the IPL.

But that was not the case as Kohli had a forgettable stay in England. The English pacers noticed his vulnerability outside the off-stump and made sure they bowled at the same spot, again and again which led to Kohli's dismissals. The 25-year-old averaged 13.50 in ten innings, 39 being his highest score. The ODIs were no different where despite having 19 centuries under his belt, the Delhi batsman accumulated just 54 runs from four innings. It was only in the lone T20 match where he crossed the 50-run mark with a knock of 66 runs.

It would be wrong to say that the dashing batsman wasn't working hard to get back to form. Ahead of the series with West Indies, he even went to seek advice from his idol Sachin Tendulkar, who gave him tips to iron out his flaws.

Even though West Indies didn't have a world class bowling attack, it was extremely important from India's perspective that Kohli played some big knocks. And the long wait ended when he followed his 62-run knock in the second ODI with the much-awaited 20th ton in the third.

While Kohli would have been disappointed with the way his momentum was stopped as West Indies flew back home, he wouldn't mind a series with Sri Lanka, a side against whom he has an incredible record - 1,527 runs in 35 ODIs at an average of 52.65 runs with five centuries. While scoring those huge runs, he made Lasith Malinga look like a mediocre bowler on numerous occasions and the speedster will have some respite this time around as he is out of the series due to injury.

India would not like to take Sri Lanka lightly. They are a team which defeated them in the finals of the T20 World Cup this year. They are a team, which fought against all the odds and beat England 2-1 on their home ground, while despite a good start, India suffered yet another humiliation in England where they were beaten 3-1 in the five-match Test series recently. Angelo Mathews has been in superb form this year and the legendary duo of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene could score heap of runs in what could be their last ODI tour to India.

Kohli undoubtedly has been the most fascinating part of Indian cricket over the years. Since the retirement of Sachin Tendulkar, he is one of the main reasons why the Indian cricket fans have continued to watch cricket. In case he has a good series against Sri Lanka, both as a captain and a batsman, Indian fans for sure would look forward to an exciting contest with the Aussies Down Under.