A year ago, it would have been hard to believe that Virat Kohli’s spot on the Indian cricket team could be up for debate. But now, Kohli is fit and available, and some people are wondering if he should still be playing.
The T20 World Cup in the UAE last year was a failure, and part of the reason was because of India’s old-fashioned batting at the top of the order. The runs were not coming in quickly enough.
The question of whether or not KL Rahul, Rohit, and Kohli are the best possible options for India’s top three batting spots in Test cricket was widely debated 10 months ago, and most people didn’t have an affirmative answer.
Now, with another Test series just around the corner, the Indian team management still hasn’t come to a conclusion on this matter.
If India repeats its top three in Asia Cup and the T20 World Cup, then one of the three other top T20 performers Rishabh Pant, Suryakumar Yadav and Dinesh Karthik would find it tough to stay inside playing XI.
Pant has that ‘X-factor’, being able to hit the ball all around the park. Suryakumar is a bonafide 360 degree hitter and Karthik is a designated finisher, who can be counted on to get those crucial runs.
India’s cricket team is asking itself an important question: If their two best batsmen have to be slotted in, then who should be dropped from the team?
This question does not have a definitive answer yet. Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja’s positions as all-rounders seem set, and at least four specialist bowlers are required. That leaves India with only five specialist batters to choose from.
Rahul and Kohli have been selected for the side, but there is a question of whether or not their positions in the first XI are secure.
After the T20 World Cup last year, Kohli has played only four shortest format matches over the course of nine months, with scores of 17, 52, 1, and 11.
The selection committee has decided that, despite Kohli’s poor form as of late, this is not enough of a sample size to take any definitive action.
The bigger question is whether the team management will let Kohli play his own game which is to build the innings and accelerate after getting set.
Kohli has been known to get out before getting set though he hits those boundaries.
The team’s philosophy has now changed completely and even skipper Rohit has tweaked his game upfront to suit the needs of Powerplay batting in the slam-bang format.
Rohit Sharma has been in impressive form lately, scoring nearly 450 runs at a strike-rate of 145 in 16 T20Is.
He has looked especially comfortable opening the batting with Pant and Suryakumar Yadav in two different series, and Suryakumar has been a touch better than Pant during the recently-concluded West Indies series.
Deepak Hooda is another immensely talented batsman who has also scored a hundred as an opener, although it was against minnows Ireland.
Hooda has been impressive in class, but he may not be a starter for the Asia Cup. His off-breaks and fielding have been standouts, though, so he’ll definitely be in the mix.
The ‘KL’ Conundrum
According to sources close to the selection committee, KL Rahul will open in the Asia Cup. However, he is reportedly a bit nervous going into the tournament’s high-stakes game against Pakistan on August 28th.
As a result, he has rushed himself (medical team announced he is now fit although earlier it was said his recovery would take more time) into the Zimbabwe ODI series, where he will get more opportunities to bat and prepare for the tournament.
Rahul has always been more of an accumulator, taking his time in the first 10 overs before increasing the pace in the final 5 overs.
Despite this, he has been a phenomenal run-machine in the IPL for years and has an international strike rate of 142.
While the overall numbers look good, the team’s philosophy has now changed which may impact his performance.
Pant or SKY or DK?
Rishabh Pant’s T20I strike-rate is 126. While this might not be the most impressive number, it is important to remember that cricket is a game that requires both consistency and the ability to turn the table on a big day.
Kapil Dev’s 175 not out was a piece of magic in 1983 while Yuvraj Singh’s 369 runs and 15 wickets in 2011 was about manic consistency. Both are needed and hence dropping Pant means dropping the option of having either.
Suryakumar’s performance in Nottingham proved that he deserves a place on the team.
He can play the ramp shot, change the position of his wrists at the last moment to hit a square driven six or play the ‘pick-up pull-shot’ behind square — all with equal finesse.
Dinesh Karthik has also been doing well since he rejoined the team. As Karthik himself said, he is playing a high-risk game which will look good when it comes off but there will be days when it doesn’t come off.