What are the chances of Virat Kohli opening for India at T20 World Cup having burned up the charts in IPL 2024? | Crickit

What are the chances of Virat Kohli opening for India at T20 World Cup having burned up the charts in IPL 2024?

May 10, 2024 01:49 PM IST

With Virat Kohli racking up another 600-plus season with RCB as opener, it may be a huge missed opportunity if he doesn't don the same role at T20 World Cup.

One of the many challenges of international cricket is having to bat at a position outside of where one has tasted success for state or franchise. Especially for someone aspiring to break into the national side, batting outside one’s comfort zone is a given. Fortunately, Virat Kohli doesn’t fall into that category.

In this form, it will be criminalistic not to have Virat Kohli open the batting for India at T20 World Cup (AFP)
In this form, it will be criminalistic not to have Virat Kohli open the batting for India at T20 World Cup (AFP)

In August, the former captain will complete 16 years as an international. There is little he has not done, across formats. And in a further iteration of his burning desire to keep evolving, even at 35 and after the volume of work he has crafted, Kohli has taken his batting to a new level this IPL.

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If Royal Challengers Bengaluru still entertain slim hopes of a playoffs place, it’s entirely due to their talisman. Particularly in the early stages when, beyond Dinesh Karthik, everyone else had forgotten how to make runs, Kohli stood tall. Despite his heroics, RCB slid to six successive losses and seven in their first eight outings; Kohli’s shoulders didn’t droop, his head didn’t drop. Now, when the rest of the batting unit has started to fire, he has lost none of his brilliance, the latest slice of evidence coming during his 47-ball 92 against Punjab Kings on Thursday.

His sixth knock of 50 or more in 12 innings this season extended his lead at the top of the run-scorers’ chart; Kohli now has 634 runs – the fourth time he has topped 600 runs in an IPL season –nearly a hundred more than Ruturaj Gaikwad. Significantly, those runs, all scored while opening the batting, have come at a strike-rate of 153.51. His overall T20 strike-rate is 134.31, his T20I strike-rate is 138.15.

All this begs the question: Should Kohli be pushed up to open the batting, alongside captain Rohit Sharma, at the T20 World Cup next month?

It isn’t as if Kohli hasn’t opened for India in the shortest format. Indeed, his only three-figure knock at the international level came as an opener, against Afghanistan in the Asia Cup in September 2022. In nine innings at the top, he has racked up 400 runs at 57.14; his strike-rate of 161.29 is significantly higher than when he has batted at No. 3 (135.26, 3,076 runs at 53.96 in 80 innings). If this doesn’t present a strong case for the right-hander to slide up the order, nothing else will.

But cricket, especially, isn’t all about defined, straight lines; it’s not always black-and-white. There is merit to Kohli alongside Rohit as India’s preferred T20I openers because it will give the country’s best all-format players the most number of deliveries to stamp their authority while also ensuring that Suryakumar Yadav, inarguably the most accomplished 20-over batter in the world currently, comes out at No. 3. Few are more adept at making the most of the field restrictions in the six Powerplay overs than Rohit and Kohli, who this season has batted with fearlessness and occasionally the mindset of an inveterate gambler.

How Virat Kohli as opener may change India's Playing XI dyamics

With Rohit and Kohli opening, India will not have to think twice about fielding at least three – Shivam Dube, Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja - of their four all-rounders, with a slot still available for Axar Patel if the need arises. That will not only mean a deep batting line-up but also a plethora of bowling options at Rohit’s disposal, with the riches well spread out between pace and spin. Again, on paper and in theory, this is sound, irrefutable logic.

The counter to that might be the necessity for a right-left opening combination, which will then tilt the scales in Yashasvi Jaiswal’s favour. The Mumbai left-hander hasn’t had the best of seasons – 320 runs in 11 innings, nearly half of them coming in two hits alone – but his quality isn’t in question, nor is his big-match temperament. Without resorting to the cheeky and the unorthodox, Jaiswal can access different parts of the ground. He is a natural and consummate six-hitter, though it can’t be denied that Kohli has embraced a whole new attitude towards taking the aerial route, especially through the slog-sweep that he plays with the authority of one born to do so.

If Jaiswal does open, it will probably shut the door on Dube and shake up team balance somewhat. What will be the clincher, one suspects, is how the brains’ trust assesses the conditions and where it believes there is a more urgent need for batting firepower. If that needle rests on the middle order, and consequently Dube, then Jaiswal will have to miss out. Kohli’s love affair with the hard-run twos and Rohit’s more stately saunters between the wickets notwithstanding, throw these two together at 1 and 2, we say. And watch the fun.

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Stay updated with the latest cricket news, T20 World Cup 2024 updates, and match highlights. Explore the World Cup Schedule 2024, track the World Cup Points Table, follow Virat Kohli's performance, and stay ahead with the stats on World Cup Most Wickets and World Cup Most Runs on the Hindustan Times website and app.
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