India's Virat Kohli during the practice session ahead of the fourth Test against Australia in Dharmsala.
India's Virat Kohli during the practice session ahead of the fourth Test against Australia in Dharmsala. Tsering Topgyal

'You've got to convince him'

DEBATE raged on Saturdy over whether Virat Kohli had gone missing in action in Dharamsala, as he donned the high-vis to become the highest-profile water boy of all time.

There is no doubting the legitimacy of Kohli's shoulder injury; he was only able to face throw-downs in the nets leading up to the deciding Test, hardly ideal preparation for facing Pat Cummins.

However, Indian Test legend Sunil Gavaskar has declared management should have urged the pugnacious captain to shrug off the discomfort and take his rightful place out in the middle.

Kohli applied his own strict team rule that players who are not 100 per cent do not take the field under any circumstances, and instead handed the reins over to karate black belt Ajinkya Rahane to save India from the embarrassment of surrendering the Border-Gavaskar Trophy on home soil to an Australian side labelled the worst ever to tour.

However, Gavaskar himself insisted that such logic was completely misguided when it comes to special talents like Kohli, who have the ability to single-handedly influence a Test match.

Kohli's decision might have been a selfless one for his team, but perhaps this was a time when India needed their unfailingly self-confident skipper to be selfish.

According to 125-Test match doyen Gavaskar, Kohli should have played even at only 50 per cent fitness.

"If you look at the previous three Test matches Virat Kohli has not really contributed with the bat but as a leader he has shepherded the team together," Gavaskar told NDTV Sports.

"I think what the team management has to look at is how important is this player to your team, in an all-round sense and not just as a batsman sense. So if his presence on the field is going to lift your team up, even if he is 50 per cent fit, 60 per cent fit, or 70 per cent fit, it's his presence in the team that is going to energise the team, then you have got to play him.

"You've got to convince him ... if the side feels that he is a must for this deciding game then they might want to convince him."

By replacing him with debutant spinner Kuldeep Yadav, India clearly weren't worried about losing Kohli's batting.

And Kohli himself said at his pre-match press conference that he could not aggravate the injury further batting - only by throwing in the field.

During the pre-match warm-up on Saturday, Kohli sprinted around with teammates during their pre-match soccer game and was an active voice in the team huddle and when he ran Gatorade out to the middle.

Ex-greats were united in their belief that Kohli's absence was potentially series-defining.

"There's no question about that," said Indian great Ravi Shastri.

"He's that kind of player in a situation like this with the series on the line, he will be very animated and that will spread around the rest of the team.

"This is a very important game. When he's due for runs and not playing, I imagine he has to be really bad not to play.

"He would have discussed with the physio and had a headache, if he felt he would've let the team down then he's decided not to play. It's a big blow. You feel the bubble has burst. The anticipation coming in ... you feel flat. It's a Test match. It's a series to be won for both sides."

Brett Lee said Kohli was close to irreplaceable.

"He brings that presence to the team. He also brings that fight and aggression to the team," he said.

"They'll miss that."