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If Virat Kohli of all ‘isn’t suited for slow wickets’ at T20 World Cup, who is?

Making sense of whether Virat Kohli is a fit for India at T20 World Cup amid reports that he may not be part of the squad.

The suspense over the immediate (read T20 World Cup) future of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli appeared to have been laid to rest in January when, after a 14-month break from the 20-over format internationally, the duo was recalled for the home series against Afghanistan. Neither was on trial, their volume of work over a period ensuring that. At the time, it was widely believed that it was the final affirmation of their presence at the June bash in the United States and the Caribbean.

When it’s Virat Kohli, you never know(AP)

Now, it would appear as if the decision-makers are having second thoughts, at least when it comes to Kohli. While BCCI secretary Jay Shah has confirmed that Rohit will lead India’s challenge at the World Cup, recent reports indicate that his predecessor might not quite make the cut owing entirely to cricketing reasons.

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Assuming these reports are accurate, chief selector Ajit Agarkar has been saddled with the unenviable task of conveying the message to the former captain that he won’t be required for the World Cup because, apparently, his style of batting in the abridged version might prove counter-productive on the traditionally slow, low surfaces in the Americas where one has to make his own pace and where timing alone will not suffice.

Also Read: ‘Those questioning Virat Kohli’s place in T20 World Cup belong in gully cricket’

Unlike some of the others in the Indian middle-order, such as Suryakumar Yadav and Rinku Singh or even young tyro Tilak Varma, Kohli isn’t a power hitter. He is more a touch player but that hasn’t prevented him from averaging 51.8 or stacking up a strike-rate of 138.2 across 117 T20Is. These are exceptional numbers, any which way one looks at them. They indicate consistency and adaptability and point to a terrific rate of scoring even if power isn’t necessarily his forte. Kohli has pulled the fat out of the fire numerous times, including at the last World Cup when he single-handedly masterminded India’s conquest of Pakistan in Melbourne. But the thinking currently seems to revolve around the fact that India have multiple ‘beast mode’ options at their disposal and therefore Kohli isn’t as indispensable as he was a couple of years ago, even when he was going through a lean patch.

Virat Kohli’s anchor vs power-hitter debate

In some quarters, the conviction that Kohli is more industrious than destructive has taken concrete shape. Kohli has struck 361 fours (average 3.31 per innings) and 117 sixes (average 1.07) in his 109 hits in international T20s. That translates to about 19 or at best 20 runs, on an average, in boundaries per innings, well below half his batting average, lending credence to the theory of him being more reliant on placement and frenetic running between the wickets to score briskly. That has served Kohli, and the Indian team, quite well in the past and there could be an argument to stick with that for the World Cup too, given that around him is a plethora of unabashed ball-strikers who can smote the little orb a mile and that he could be the hub around which the rest can operate.

Of course, there is another way of looking at it – that 20-over cricket is too short for a hub (‘anchor’ is a particularly distasteful word in this context) and that India need to shake up the established order if they are to finally add to a trophy cabinet that has remained unaltered since victory at the 2013 Champions Trophy in England.

Let’s try and make a little more sense of it, if we can. India will play their four preliminary league ties in the United States (three in New York and one in Lauderhill) and three Super Eight fixtures in the West Indies (if they advance from Group A). The knockout games are also in the Caribbean, which means a potential two more matches if they reach the final. Kohli has played 12 T20Is in the US and the Caribbean, all against West Indies – ten innings have brought him 292 runs (63 in three in US, 229 in seven in the Caribbean), at an average of 29.2 and a strike-rate of 120.66. In all, he has struck 30 fours and four sixes, boundaries accounting for 49.32 percent of his total runs. This was when Kohli was in his prime, when he was a regular in T20 internationals.

Just how correct reports pointing to Kohli’s ouster are remain to be seen. Kohli might just have a stunning first half of IPL 2024 for Royal Challengers Bangalore and make himself undroppable. Or the decision-makers might bite the bullet and decide it’s time to move on. Whichever way the cookie crumbles, it’s certain to trigger talking heads. Oh wait, it already has, hasn’t it?


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