Southampton, June 23: Former India cricketer Krishnamachari Srikanth lauded Virat Kohli for his brilliant captaincy in their World Cup match against Afghanistan, which the Men In Blue won by a slender margin of 11 runs at Rose Bowl Saturday (June 22).
Team India had to defend a below-par total of 224 against an experienced Afghanistan batting line-up and Kohli rotated his key bowlers brilliantly to ensure the World No. 2 side does not suffer a shock defeat at the hands of a team which is ranked 10th.
Pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah led the bowling attack brilliant while wrist-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal showed his class in the middle overs to break crucial partnerships and put the opposition under pressure.
In his column for ICC, Srikanth - who was part of India's WC-winning side in 1983 in England - commended Kohli for his outstanding leadership in a low-scoring game that could have gone either way.
"I thought Virat Kohli captained brilliantly against Afghanistan and it was thanks to his outstanding leadership that India got the win in the end. He knew he didn't have a big total to defend - just 224 - and he knew his two main, wicket-taking strike bowlers were Jasprit Bumrah and Yuzvendra Chahal.
"The way he utilised both of them in phases, and brought them in when required to get those vital wickets, was fantastic.
The former India chairman of selectors praised the Indian captain for rotating his bowlers brilliantly.
"You know you're limited to five bowlers and you don't really have many options, so it's about how you rotate the bowlers to get the most out of them. When do you go to the key bowler? When do you attack and when do you choke the opposition? Kohli answered those questions perfectly and that was the key to victory.
"India had to take wickets in the middle overs when the partnership between Rahmat Shah and Hashmatullah Shahidi was building. Bumrah was brought on by Kohli and got two wickets in the same over - that changed the course of the game," he writes further.
Bumrah (2/36) and Chahal (2/39) picked up two wickets apiece and rattled the Afghan batting in the middle overs and kept India in control.
"The Bumrah and Chahal combination was superb but from the Afghan point of view, even though Mohammad Nabi did a brilliant job with the bat, I still believe they should have chased down 225.
It was a good opportunity for Afghanistan to win a match at the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup and make a statement by beating India, who have been the most dominant side in the tournament so far."
The Tamil Nadu cricketer believes the close contest against Afghanistan is good for Team India in a sense for they'll not take any opposition lightly.
"I don't think anyone expected such a close match but it's great for the World Cup and probably a good thing for India as well because it's a kind of shock treatment that means they won't take anything for granted moving forward.
"The wicket was slightly slow but frankly speaking, I think India got a bit stuck in the middle overs and should have played a little bit more freely.
"They gave a little bit too much respect to Afghanistan's spinners because while the Afghans bowled well - especially Nabi, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Rashid Khan - they didn't do so well that India should have been restricted to 225. But they got the win, which was important."
Srikanth, however, said that he likes when the underdogs start challenging big teams for that makes the tournament exciting.
"The underdogs starting to bark is always good for the tournament - it makes the World Cup even more interesting. It has happened two days in a row now with Sri Lanka beating England and then Afghanistan running India close.
"In losing to Sri Lanka, maybe the English batsmen took the chase of 233 a bit too lightly. England have a very good batting line-up and, from a depth point of view, I think they have the best with Chris Woakes batting at eight and Adil Rashid at nine.
"I was surprised how they folded so suddenly against Sri Lanka but this kind of match can wake you up in the middle of a World Cup. It can be a blessing in disguise - England know now to watch out and they have learned they can't take any team lightly.
"Perhaps it will be the same for India with the Afghanistan game - a blessing in disguise. They won but you suddenly realise that if one, two and three aren't going to click in your batting line-up, what are four, five and six going to do?
He, however, writes further that India and England are still his favourites to WC final.
"I still believe England and India are the best two teams in the World Cup though and when they play each other in Birmingham next Sunday, it will be great," he signed off.