Team India is going through a transitional phase after an underwhelming 2021 T20 World Cup campaign and a lot of pressure has been put on Virat Kohli who is also going through a rough patch. Kohli has been arguably India’s best batter and biggest match-winner in the last decade but in the last nine months, things have changed a lot.
The 33-year-old has been under the scanner constantly after he relinquished the T20I captaincy which made BCCI sack him from the ODI captain’s post too. Things turned a bit ugly when Kohli contradicted BCCI president Sourav Ganguly’s statements and said he was not asked by anyone to continue as T20I captain. Earlier, Ganguly told media persons that he personally asked Kohli to think about his decision.
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Kohli also relinquished his Test captain after the South Africa tour as the balance of power shifted in Indian cricket from him to Rohit Sharma.
The Indian batting used to revolve around Kohli when he was the leader and now suddenly several cricket critics are raising questions about his place in India’s T20I squad. The Men in Blue had a below-par 2021 T20 WC where the Kohli-led side failed to reach the semifinals. The former Indian captain has been criticized for his lean patch and some are asking him to drop from the T20I squad to make way for young cricketers but is it really justified?
Recently, 1983 World Cup-winning captain Kapil Dev Kohli is no longer indispensable in T20Is.
“Yes, now the situation is such that you might be forced to bench Kohli from T20 playing eleven. If world No. 2 bowler Ashwin can be dropped from Test side then (once upon a time) world No. 1 batter can also be dropped,” Kapil told ABP News.
While former opener Wasim Jaffer also said Kohli is not a certainty in India’s T20I squad.
“Kohli plays, there’s no doubt about it but his form will be taken into consideration. His IPL strike rate hasn’t been great. He’s not been in the best of forms. Deepak Hooda can give you an option with bowling so that will be taken into consideration but not straightaway. I’d say Kohli will get an opportunity to play a few matches and then probably selectors will take a call but I don’t think he’ll be a certainty because so many young players have done so well. In the last T20 World Cup, the strike rate, that approach, was questioned and I think we need to keep looking at the future,” Jaffer told ESPNCricinfo.
Looking at Kohli’s numbers since the start of 2021, they are not that bad to drop any player. The batting maverick has scored 368 runs in 12 matches at an average of 61.33. Meanwhile, he didn’t even get a chance to bat in 2 matches which were against Afghanistan and Namibia in T20 WC. While against Scotland he faced just 2 balls and remained unbeaten on 2. He has been dropped out of ICC top 10 rankings in T20Is but it’s not completely due to his batting performances. He missed a lot of matches this year to manage his workload which directly impacted his place in ICC Rankings.
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2021 T20 WC didn’t go as planned for India as overreliance on the top 3 were once again in the spotlight for their performances. In the last few months, the selectors gave chances to several players to shine whenever the senior placers were rested for the series. They managed to find a few players who proved that they are ready to get a place in the XI. Youngsters like Deepak Hooda, Shreyas Iyer and Suryakumar Yadav managed to make the most of the opportunities they get as the critics suddenly started questioning Kohli’s place in the squad.
In recent times, Kohli has been heavily criticised for his strike rate, however, if you look at his performances, the 33-year-old has a set pattern of play where he took some time to get settled and then unleashes himself on the opposition in the final five overs. The strategy worked quite well for India in the last five years. His presence at number 3 provided stability in the batting order which allowed other players to play their natural game.
The 2021 T20 WC was the first time when people started questioning Kohli’s credentials in the T20I format despite him scoring a fighting half-century against Pakistan. In the high-octane clash, Shaheen Shah Afridi rocked the Indian team by dismissing the openers early but Kohli took the responsibility to give his team a fighting chance when other batters failed to put up a fight. He scored 57 runs off 49 balls but India lost the match.
He had one off-game with the bat in tournament which was against New Zealand where he scored 9. Looking at the tournament, Kohli the captain failed in the tournament but Kohli the batter showed fighting spirit.
The selectors gave Kohli some rest this year as he missed a couple of T20I series which has not worked in his favour. The 33-year-old is currently getting judged on his underwhelming form in IPL 2022 where he scored 341 runs in 17 matches at a strike rate of 115.99.
However, it is unfair to judge Kohli entirely on the basis of his IPL performances as the selectors have also shown some irregularities while picking the squad. Players like Shikhar Dhawan and Umesh Yadav who had a good IPL season didn’t get a chance in the T20I team while youngsters like Ishan Kishan and Ruturaj Gaikwad were backed despite below-par shows for their teams.
In the same tournament, skipper Rohit Sharma also found it difficult to score runs but his place has been not under any threat which clearly indicated that being a captain gave him liberty which Kohli also got during his tenure.
However, raising questions about Kohli’s place in the T20I squad is not entirely justified on the basis of an underwhelming IPL season.
Kohli has set the bar very high for himself and now he is becoming a victim of his own greatness India still need Kohli the batter to provide stability in the middle-order which is the primary job for every number 3 batter in the line-up.
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