Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli missing from T20Is again: What it means for their future in the format
Both, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, were not named in India's T20I squad for the upcoming three-match series against South Africa.
On Thursday, the BCCI announced squads for Team India's upcoming tour of South Africa, that comprises three ODIs, as many T20Is, and two Tests. While the major takeaway from the squads was the rest given to Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli from the white-ball leg, Suryakumar Yadav retained T20I captaincy while Jasprit Bumrah made a return to the longest format after 17 months, having last represented the side during a Test against England in Birmingham in July 2022. Additionally, Rinku Singh and Sai Sudharsan were handed maiden ODI call-ups while Yuzvendra Chahal and Sanju Samson also made a return to the format.
In a tweet following the squad announcement, the BCCI cleared the air on Rohit and Kohli's absence from the white-ball leg. “Mr Rohit Sharma and Mr Virat Kohli had requested the Board for a break from the white-ball leg of the tour,” the tweet said. It also stated that Mohammed Shami – who has been selected for the Tests – will join the side subject to fitness.
Also read: 'Natural for Virat to be tired, unfold his final chapter': AB de Villiers after Kohli absent from South Africa ODIs
It had been widely speculated that Rohit could make a return to captaincy in T20Is, and that the board had been trying to convince the 36-year-old to make a comeback in the format. The last time Rohit – as well as Kohli – represented the national team in T20Is was during the T20 World Cup last year. Ever since, Hardik Pandya had been leading the side in the shortest format; an injury to the all-rounder during the ODI World Cup in October saw Suryakumar Yadav taking over the leadership reins in the format.
The BCCI did, however, honour Rohit Sharma's plea for a hiatus from white-ball cricket during the South Africa series, resulting in Suryakumar and KL Rahul assuming leadership roles in T20Is and ODIs, respectively. Similarly, reports had been doing the rounds about Kohli requesting for a break from white-ball leg as well; both, Rohit and Kohli had been central to Team India's gruelling preparations for the ODI World Cup, which ended in a final heartbreak at the hands of Australia last month.
The spotlight stays on the shortest format for now, with the T20 World Cup slated for June 2024. Given Rohit and Kohli's absence from the white-ball leg, questions arise about their future in the format.
Rohit can still ‘lead’ in T20Is
It seems Rohit's recent shift from playing anchor to adopting an aggressive approach has impressed BCCI significantly. According to news agency PTI, Hardik Pandya might no longer be an automatic choice for T20 captaincy in the T20 World Cup next year if Rohit decides to play the shortest format.
"Rohit has been offered T20 captaincy but he is in UK on a holiday and wants an extended break after four months of gruelling season till end of the World Cup. But as captain, he has the highest respect for the dressing room and if he agrees to lead India in T20 World Cup, he will lead," a BCCI source told PTI.
A cloud of uncertainty shrouds the T20I trajectories of both Rohit and Kohli, with neither making public declarations about their intentions to either continue or retire from the format. Despite this ambiguity, Virat Kohli's stellar performances in the last T20 World Cup, where he emerged as the top run-scorer, and his brilliant performances in the IPL 2023 position him as an apparent selection, provided he expresses his availability for the upcoming matches.
The problem, however, lies with the remaining schedule for the national team ahead of the World Cup.
Only 6 T20Is before T20 WC
The T20I series against South Africa was, perhaps, the best opportunity for BCCI to bring Rohit and Kohli back in fold, if they are part of the plans for the World Cup next year. India are scheduled to play Afghanistan in January in three T20Is, which marks their last action in the format before the gruelling five-Test series against England.
This puts significant weightage on next year's IPL, which takes place right before the T20 World Cup. In the T20I series against South Africa, other Team India regulars like Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, and Shubman Gill also remain absent and the next season of the cash-rich league, thus, serves as best preparation for the marquee global tournament.
Regardless, if one goes by the reports, the ball still largely remains in the senior's duo court when it comes to selection in T20Is.
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