Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli should open at T20 World Cup: Sourav Ganguly | Crickit
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Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli should open at T20 World Cup: Sourav Ganguly

By, New Delhi
Apr 22, 2024 09:49 PM IST

The make-up of the Indian top-order has been an area of debate as the 17th IPL edition reaches the halfway stage.

Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli should be India’s opening batters at the T20 World Cup in June. That’s the opinion of former BCCI president and ex-India captain Sourav Ganguly. With a little over a week left before the selectors sit down to pick India’s 15-member squad for the marquee event, Ganguly’s view was sought during a media interaction organised by Delhi Capitals on Monday — he is the mentor of the IPL franchise — about the players who should board the flight to the United States and Caribbean.

Ganguly still sees Rohit and Kohli as integral members of the T20 team(PTI)
Ganguly still sees Rohit and Kohli as integral members of the T20 team(PTI)

While BCCI confirmed in February that Rohit will lead India at the T20 World Cup, the make-up of the Indian top-order has been an area of debate as the 17th IPL edition reaches the halfway stage. Kohli is the leading run-getter in this year’s IPL while opening the batting for Royal Challengers Bengaluru, but his strike rate in the shortest format continues to polarise opinion. Earlier this season, Kohli scored a 67-ball 100 against Rajasthan Royals, the slowest in IPL’s history.

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With scoring rates constantly going up in T20 cricket and many young Indian batters showing the ability to satisfy the format’s evolving demands, it can be argued that India should go in with a wholly youthful squad, like they did when they won the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007.

Ganguly, however, still sees Rohit and Kohli as integral members of the T20 team. “I feel both will go. And both should go. And in my personal opinion, they should open,” he said. “You have to look at every performance. A good team is a balance of experience and youth. The experienced players are tremendous and I am not saying only because of the number of games. It's the performances they have put in over a period of time.”

Ganguly's term as BCCI president had just ended when India suffered a chastening semi-final defeat to England in the 2022 T20 World Cup in Australia. The criticism in the aftermath was about India’s staid approach with the bat and how there’s a pressing need to redefine the way they play.

“But the most important thing for India in T20 cricket — and I said that to Rahul (Dravid) in Australia also — is to just play without fear. Just go and hit. There's a long batting line-up. And you can always control if you lose wickets,” Ganguly said.

Can Rohit and Kohli make this shift? “It is not a drastic change. They have the talent to do it. You saw how Rohit batted in the 50-over World Cup. He just came and hit at the top. That's why we were such a good side. He just put so much pressure on the opposition in the first 7-8 overs that it gave breathing space for the middle order. I think Virat and Rohit should do the same. They are great players,” said the 51-year-old. “Virat has got the capability to hit a 40-ball 100 also. India, with the talent they have, need to just go and hit. That should be the mindset. We will see what happens after 5-6 overs.”

‘Pant is ready’

As part of the Delhi franchise, Ganguly has been able to monitor Pant’s cricketing comeback from a life-threatening car accident in December 2022. The wicketkeeper-batter has scored 254 runs in eight IPL games (average 36.28, strike rate 150.29) this season while also looking sharp behind the stumps. Is Pant ready though for a return to the India fold at the T20 World Cup?

“Yes, I think so. I am sure he will go to the World Cup,” Ganguly responded.

Even before Pant’s injuries, there was a sense that he hadn’t quite cracked the shorter formats. He’s a proven match-winner in Tests, but he averages 22.43 and strikes at 126.37 after 66 T20Is for India. Ganguly’s message to Pant is the same as for the rest of India’s batters.

“Khulke khele (Play freely). Just hit sixes and nothing else,” he said. “Hitting sixes is very important. Have you seen Travis Head play? He swings from the first ball.”

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