'Rohit, Kohli have to openly talk about their T20I future': BCCI's WC dilemma explained in major Team India suspense
Ojha feels that with the suspense building by the day over Kohli and Rohit's T20I future, BCCI won't be able to get their World Cup plans entirely underway.
From the heartbreaking loss or the painful miss in what was India's best ever chance at ending their long-standing ICC trophy drought, the discussions around the team has moved on, but the central characters remain the same. With India building towards the T20 World Cup next year, amid a handful of international games and an the impending IPL 2024 season left, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma have emerged as the cynosures yet again. It has been 382 days since the two last featured in a T20I game, the 2022 T20 World Cup semifinal match against England in Adelaide being their last.
The initial response from Rohit was "workload management", which was back in January this year after the two stalwarts missed back-to-back T20I series post the World Cup in Australia. He had said: "Certainly, I have not decided to give up the format." It did seem a fair reasoning with India reserving their best resources for the ODI World Cup at home. Them missing the Australia T20I series that followed the Ahmedabad final against Australia remained justified as well with India wanting to rest their World Cup squad after an arduous run which started right back from August with the West Indies tour, followed by the Asia Cup, home ODI series against Australia and the big tournament. Only three players from the World Cup squad have been picked for the five-match T20Is against the Aussies.
The discussion surrounding Rohit's future in T20Is, however, was reignited after a PTI report mentioned that the India captain is unlikely to play the international format in the near future. While there wasn't any mention of Kohli in the report, his absence from the format for the exact period as Rohit left world cricket doubly anxious, especially amid no official communication regarding the same.
Why BCCI needs to know Kohli, Rohit's preference?
Since the 2022 T20 World Cup, India have played 19 completed T20I matches, three of which were part of the Asian Games. During the period, eight players were used in the top-order (1-3) with Shubman Gill and Ishan Kishan featuring in 11 of those where they predominantly played as openers. Suryakumar Yadav, meanwhile, featured as a No. 3, which is Kohli's usual spot in the line-up, in seven of those matches where he scored a century and two fifties as well. Other inclusions were Yashasvi Jaiswal and Ruturaj Gaikwad who played nine and six matches respectively as openers, while Tilak Varma played six matches as well at No. 3, three of which were in Hangzhou for all the three.
Barring Rahul Tripathi and an injured Rishabh Pant from that aforementioned list of eight players, all have been recalled for the T20Is against Australia. And with the series marking the beginning of India's preparation for the World Cup next year, these players directly fall into the scheme of things for the BCCI, the selectors and the team management.
Former India cricketer Pragyan Ojha, speaking exclusively to Hindustan Times on the sidelines of the Dehradun leg of the 2023 Legends League Cricket, explained that selectors tend to plan for a World Cup keeping in mind a cycle, which includes veteran players, some fringe players and the remaining certainties. With a World Cup cycle ending, they often tend to look forward to a fresh combination. Ojha feels that with the suspense building by the day over Kohli and Rohit's T20I future, BCCI won't be able to get their World Cup plans entirely underway.
"I'm very sure they'll be talking to the management. And the committee will always take their opinion, what is the future plans, what they're thinking. Because every player, if you look at every board, what they do is they believe in one cycle. The cycle is from World Cup to World Cup. They prepare the team accordingly. With the ODI World Cup cycle over, the new T20 World Cup cycle will come up. So we'll see what the management decides and what they talk to Rohit and Virat and what they come up with as well. Because that discussion is very important. They are senior most cricketers. They have done so much for the country. So once that discussion is done, and I strongly believe they deserve that discussion where they openly talk about what the future plan is, then we can understand what both are thinking and what the board is thinking," he said.
In the interview, Ojha also talked about his experience of playing the LLC, India's recent World Cup campaign and their unwanted streak in ICC knockouts. Here are excerpts...
Q) Dehradun last witnessed an international game in 2012. Jammu in 1985. How important has this decision been for LLC to take the league to these cities and keeping the cricket spirits alive?
I think the first thing is cricket spirit is always alive in India, in any part of the country and that is a beauty, because the reach that cricket gives and the love that cricket gets, it's unparalleled to any other sport. May it be in Jammu or Kanyakumari. It has always connected by our country. And the other thing is there are so many places where unfortunately we have not seen international matches. But I think this is an opportunity for people of Jammu and people of Dehradun to connect with the sports because for them to come down and see their heroes play and perform. And I remember as a kid, I also used to be excited when all those tournaments used to happen, like the exhibition games and all, because every time it is difficult to have this big game coming up, because it is not only about the venue, it is about other things as well. So the committee, they decide on the conditions and the reach of the hotel. There are a lot of things involved in it. So I think once those parameters are met, that is when they decide of having an international standard tournament. But this is a great opportunity, as I said earlier, for the local people to come and come up with this beautiful sport.
Q) The league started on November 18. 19th was a huge day for Indian cricket fans and 20th was an emotional day. What was the talk like in the camp here in LLC?
I think we have to accept one thing that Australia really played well that day and they won. If you see India's track record in this World Cup, they were phenomenal. They won all the ten games before this one bad day, things changed. I think in sport it is understandable when you see a team has done so well consistently, one day it happens. Because the beauty about sport is it is not like mathematics that every time you add two plus two, it is going to be four. That is how it is. That is the harsh reality. Every time you go onto the field and you put your 110% effort, that would never guarantee that you'll win the tournament. So I think Australia played well. They won the trophy. As an Indian, you feel sad because you always wanted them to win. They had reached the finals. It was made in India. So there are a lot of things, but end of the day, that is the beauty of sport. That is what sport teaches you. Even if things don't go your way, you have to get up the next morning and start doing your work.
Q) Couple of words that have been identified with India in ICC knockout games are 'timid, not brave enough, conservative'. Do you feel that has been among the top reasons behind this unwanted streak?
There are two ways. One way you can always talk about India reaching semi finals and moving out. But the way I look at it is India is being consistent in reaching the yes, maybe, you know, they could know crossed that hurdle. But if you see India has been one team which has been consistent over the years, every time they have made ICC economies, they have reached the semifinals. I think that is one positive which I look at.
Q) With 7 months left for the T20WC and their preparations have already kicked off, what will be you single message to counter that factor or in general to the team?
I would say just keep fighting the way you have and we are really proud of the team and the way they have played in this World Cup and just continue that momentum.
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