Time for India to bring Yashasvi Jaiswal as opener and push Virat Kohli back at No.3? | Crickit
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Time for India to bring Yashasvi Jaiswal as opener and push Virat Kohli back at No.3?

Jun 13, 2024 07:43 AM IST

Virat Kohli's third failure in a row has triggered the inevitable question: Should he return to No. 3, and facilitate the entry of Yashasvi Jaiswal as opener?

It’s not been a T20 World Cup to remember so far personally for Virat Kohli. Coming off a hot IPL season and catapulted to the top of the batting order to maximise his form and experience, Kohli has hit a rare trough, courting three single-digit dismissals and playing a combined nine deliveries for five runs.

USA's Saurabh Netravalkar celebrates the dismissal of India's Virat Kohli(Surjeet Yadav)
USA's Saurabh Netravalkar celebrates the dismissal of India's Virat Kohli(Surjeet Yadav)

Cause for concern? Definitely not, not when one answers to the name of Virat Kohli. Personal affront? Most certainly, given how much pride he takes in performance and how much he takes it upon himself to set the tone for his team, be it opening or slotting in at No. 3.

Kohli has found the entire gamut of off-side fielders in his three dismissals. In the opener against Ireland, he charged Mark Adair, seeking to go over the top down the ground, only to put up an outside edge that swirled into the gleeful hands of third-man. Three days later, after a glorious off-drive against Naseem Shah that screamed to the long-off fence, he was undone by the pitch, a bit of seam movement and his own choice to make some room for himself. As he advanced down the track to blaze over the off-side, a combination of the above factors forced him to play away from his body and find the fielder at a squarish point, moved from slip to that position just before that ball.

Also Read | Why India got match-changing 5 penalty runs vs USA in T20 World Cup? Explained

Kohli must have pumped himself up for India’s third league fixture at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium on Wednesday, against United States. After all, this was his final chance to make a mark on New York – India travelled to Florida hours after the game for their last fixture against Canada on Saturday – and work his way back among the runs before the Super Eight phase, starting next week. India faced a modest chase of 111, US had honest but hardly threatening bowlers. Stage set, you might say.

“Batting has been brutal, bowling has really been the king here,” Stuart Law, US’ head coach, one-lined after India had completed what was a reasonably comfortable seven-wicket win with 10 deliveries to spare. He might as well have been echoing Kohli’s sentiment.

After Rohit Sharma had scurried a single off the first ball of the chase, Kohli was up against Saurabh Netravalkar, the Oracle man whose move from India in search of greener professional pastures has also introduced him to international cricket. The left-arm seamer had played in KL Rahul’s team of 2010 that featured in the Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand, but until five years back, he must have thought that would remain his biggest foray into international cricket. Then came the turn of events that have now made him a household name in India, if not yet in the US.

Netravalkar had expertly defended 18 in the Super Over against Pakistan nearly a week back. This time, his first ball to Kohli went away with the angle, the batter’s optimistic waft resulting in a healthy nick through to Andries Gous behind the sticks. More than 31,000 fans, most of them rooting for India, gasped and then lapsed into stunned silence. Kohli wouldn’t entertain them, not this day.

Left-arm over isn’t an angle Kohli has always been comfortable with in the past – who has, truth to tell? – but this third failure in a row has triggered the inevitable question: Should he return to No. 3, and facilitate the entry at the top of the order of Yashasvi Jaiswal?

The answer, we believe, must be an emphatic no. Yes, five runs in three innings is unKohli-llke, but as Law so succinctly observed, conditions at the Nassau County Stadium have been terrible for batting. There is no discernible reason why, when the tournament moves to better batting conditions, Kohli’s bat won’t start to do the talking again. The permanence of class is another tick in the box against the former skipper’s name and if there is one constancy this team management has emphasised on, it is stability and consistency in selection and messaging.

Despite his recent travails, India kept the faith with Shivam Dube and the left-hander responded in kind on Wednesday, overcoming a horror start to help Suryakumar Yadav fashion a match-winning alliance. Kohli is in a different class altogether and it’s hard to see Rohit and Rahul Dravid pull the plug on his avatar as opener this early in the piece. No one will be more acutely aware of the need to announce himself in the tournament more than Kohli himself, and as history will testify, a charged-up Kohli isn’t good news. For his, or India’s, opponents.

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