Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal will open in New Zealand ODIs – Virat Kohli

Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal “will definitely start” as openers in the three-ODI series in New Zealand, maybe as early as in the first game on Wednesday, while KL Rahul will continue to keep wicket and bat at No. 5 to give him more time to settle into his new role, Virat Kohli confirmed at a press conference a day before the game in Hamilton.

Kohli was speaking before Agarwal had been named in the 50-over squad as the injured Rohit Sharma’s replacement, but did say that the team management had asked for another opener. Sharma will now return to India to treat his calf injury.

“No, we are looking to stick to that same plan,” Kohli said when asked of the possibility of Rahul opening in Sharma’s absence. “It’s an unfortunate situation that Rohit can’t be a part of this series. In all formats, he’s on the list first and the impact he’s had is there for everyone to see.

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“We don’t have any one-day tournaments to look forward to so it’s an ideal time for him to go away and rectify this as soon as he can. He played the T20I series, so from the team’s balance perspective heading into a World Cup year, it doesn’t hamper combinations.

“Prithvi’s in the team and will definitely start and whoever the replacement is [Agarwal] – we’ve asked for an opener. KL will play in the middle-order, we want him to get used to that role at No. 5 and keep as well.”

Kohli also emphasised the need to respect the 50-over format even in what is a T20 World Cup year.

“We’ve had five T20Is already, so it’s not like we don’t have a lot of T20 cricket (coming up),” he said. “We have the IPL as well, so we’ll probably utilise that (to prepare for the World Cup). Last year, we didn’t have much opportunity to prepare ourselves (for the 50-over World Cup) except for the games in front of you.

“We certainly expect a bunch of young guys who are good fielders to do the job collectively, not just focus on batting or bowling. It’s about taking all three skills seriously and committing to all three completely”

Virat Kohli on India’s patchy fielding

“But T20s is very different, IPL is the most competitive T20 tournament you can ask for as a collective, and guys will look to get into the frame of mind in that tournament and not this early in a 50-over format because you don’t want to play in a different manner.

“You have to respect the format and play to the pace of the 50-over game, and as I spoke of the combination Rahul playing in the middle-order, it’s about guys settling in their roles and repeating that game after game. These things are all about creating good habits for different formats and then being able to switch. We’re not looking at preparing for the T20 World Cup through this series. IPL will be the right platform (for that).”

Looking ahead to the ODI series, where New Zealand will be without Kane Williamson for at least the first two games, Kohli said India’s immediate priority would be to up their fielding, which was “disappointing” in recent times.

“We have recognised it,” he said of the efforts in the field in the T20Is, which India won 5-0. “The average age is 27 max, so we should be fielding way better than what we have. The standards in the last series overall wasn’t that good from either side. It can happen in T20 cricket because it’s fast-paced. And once you get into a nervous zone, it’s difficult to get out of it because the ball keeps coming to you invariably.

“But even in one-day cricket, we’ve had fielding performances which we’re not proud of and there’s no hiding from it. We’ve spoken about it, we certainly expect a bunch of young guys who’re good fielders to do the job collectively, not just focus on batting or bowling. It’s about taking all three skills seriously and committing to all three completely, like we do towards bowling and batting. Sometimes in fielding when it’s not a matter of execution or result immediately, things can be taken for granted. That’s something we want to stay away from.”