The clamour to drop Virat Kohli out of this Indian side has got louder after his most recent failure, in England, where he got out cheaply twice in the T20I series. With the T20 World Cup looming large, there’s a big question mark over his place, as many experts feel the team should play their best XI, rather than going by the reputation.
On Sunday in Nottingham, Kohli looked in fine touch, playing two of his trademark shots – a flick to the leg side and a straight drive for a six – but couldn’t manage something substantial. Trying to pierce the gap at the cover, he ended up holing out to Jason Roy on 11.
It has been almost three years since Kohli last scored a century in any format of the game. Even when Kohli was at his peak, his strike rate in the shortest format of the game was a cause of concern. Now that runs have dried up too, the criticism is coming thick and fast from all corners, including the former greats like Virender Sehwag, Kapil Dev, and Venkatesh Prasad.
Kapil Dev, the former World Cup-winning captain, asked that if this team can bench the world’s best spinner in R Ashwin consistently for the sake of team balance, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t do the same with Kohli.
“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,” Dev told ABP News.
He unhesitatingly asked to drop Kohli for the younger players who have been doing good for their side. Recently, Deepak Hooda scored his maiden T20I century, against Ireland, while opening the innings. Moreover, the team has even tried Rishabh Pant as an opener in the last two games against England. Kohli’s position at No. 3 looks safe, but things could change swiftly if he doesn’t turn it around before the World Cup.
“India has so many batsman who can get going from the start, some of them are unfortunately sitting out. Need to find a way to play the best available players in the current form in T-20 cricket,” wrote Virender Sehwag on Twitter.
While he doesn’t name anyone, there’s enough hint in the tweet about Kohli. Among the 11 players who stepped out at Trent Bridge, none barring Kohli is struggling to find the rhythm.
Captain Rohit Sharma not only offered full support to Kohli, but also took a sly dig at “critics” who have questioned the latter’s place in the team. Rohit dismissed these as “outside noise,” stating that people don’t know the thought process of this team.
“We don’t listen much to the outside noise. I don’t know who these experts are. I don’t understand why they are called experts. They are watching the game from outside, they don’t know what is going on inside in the dressing room,” said Rohit.
“There’s always a thought process behind picking up a team. We try to back our players, the people watching the game from outside don’t know about it,” he added.
Rohit also reasoned this team won’t drop a player because of just one underwhelming season, especially if the player in question is someone of Virat Kohli’s stature.
“When some player has done so well consistently for so long, that can’t be written off in one or two series or one or two years. It takes people time to understand it completely, but those who are running the team know the importance of that quality,” concluded Rohit.
Not quite long ago, it was Virat Kohli who had to defend Rohit Sharma in the press conference. When many doubted Rohit’s comeback to the Test squad, for the series against South Africa in 2019, Kohli made him the opener of his side. In the press conference ahead of the first Test, the former Indian skipper downplayed the expectations, stating Rohit will get full support to establish himself in red-ball cricket.
“We are not looking at a certain kind of display of batting from Rohit. It is about him finding his game at the top. Yes, his strength is to take the game forward. Like what Viru bhai used to do for the team for a long period,” explained Kohli. “So, it is not as if someone would have told Viru bhai to attack and get a hundred before lunch. His natural instinct took over and he could demolish attacks once he felt comfortable.
Rohit repaid the faith with a series of prolific scores, including his maiden double century, and then became a Test mainstay for Team India.
Last year after India lost to Pakistan in the ICC T20 World Cup, Kohli grilled a reporter who asked him whether Rohit Sharma will be dropped from the side. Sharma got out for a golden duck by Shaheen Shah Afridi in the game, and was ruthlessly trolled on the internet. Kohli, however, reminded the reporter of Rohit’s last century against England before moving on to the next question.
“It’s a very brave question. What do you think, sir? I played the team that I thought was the best, what is your opinion?” Kohli responded. “I am just asking you? Will you drop Rohit Sharma from T20 internationals? You will drop Rohit Sharma? You know what he did in the last game we played, unbelievable!”
“If you want controversy, please tell me before so that I can answer accordingly,” Kohli added.
Featured Image Credit: BCCI