Former India captain Virat Kohli’s lean patch has put him under the scanner as several former cricketers and critics have raised questions about his place in India’s T20I side. Rohit Sharma and Co. are going through a transitional phase where they have started adopting a fearless approach with the bat in recent times which was missing in the previous squads. With T20 World Cup coming in a few months, India have yet not finalized their middle order as they are still trying different players at different spots.
Kohli, who has been India’s number 3 in T20I for a long time, has not been able to manufacture big runs in recent times which has raised questions over his T20I batting credentials. While young Deepak Hooda has performed well in the limited opportunities he got this year.
While several former cricketers have advised India to drop Kohli from T20Is but the current skipper Rohit Sharma has stated that they will continue to back the batting maverick.
Legendary 1983 World Cup-winning captain raised questions on Kohli’s place in the T20I XI as he said that the 33-year-old is not batting at a level that he used to.
“Yes, now the situation is such that you might be forced to bench Kohli from T20 playing eleven. If world No. 2 bowler Ashwin can be dropped from Test side then (once upon a time) world No. 1 batter can also be dropped,” Kapil Dev told ABP News.
“Virat is not batting at a level which we have seen him do over the years. He has made a name because of his performances but if he isn’t performing, then you can’t keep the performing youngsters out of the team,” the World Cup-winning captain further added.
Meanwhile commenting on ICC’s Instagram post, Khawaja said something which gave an impression that the Aussie didn’t agree with Dev. “Averages 50 at almost 140. Good call, Australia agrees,” commented the cricketer.
Kohli’s childhood coach Rajkumar Sharma defended the batter and said he doesn’t support Kapil’s statements.
“I do not support the statements made by Kapil Dev on Virat Kohli. Nothing big happened with Virat that such kind of statement has been issued. Why is there so much hurry with Virat, he has done so well for the country. Making 70 international centuries is not a small thing. I do not think the board will make a decision to have him sit on the bench,” Rajkumar said to ANI.
While former opener Wasim Jaffer also said Kohli is not a certainty in India’s T20I squad.
“Kohli plays, there’s no doubt about it but his form will be taken into consideration. His IPL strike rate hasn’t been great. He’s not been in the best of forms. Deepak Hooda can give you an option with bowling so that will be taken into consideration but not straightaway. I’d say Kohli will get an opportunity to play a few matches and then probably selectors will take a call but I don’t think he’ll be a certainty because so many young players have done so well. In the last T20 World Cup, the strike rate, that approach, was questioned and I think we need to keep looking at the future,” Jaffer told ESPNCricinfo.
Kohli had a disappointing time with the bat in the T20I series against England as veteran pacer Venkatesh Prasad also joined the bandwagon of former stars asking to drop the 33-year-old from the T20I side.
“There was a time when you were out of form, you would be dropped irrespective of reputation. Sourav, Sehwag, Yuvraj, Zaheer, Bhajji all have been dropped when not in form. They have went back to domestic cricket, scored runs and staged a comeback,” tweeted Prasad.
“The yardsticks seem to have changed drastically now, where there is rest for being out of form. This is no way for progress. There is so much talent in the country and cannot play on reputation. One of India’s greatest match-winner, Anil Kumble sat out on so many occasions, need actions for the larger good,” he added.
Former Pakistan spinner Danish Kaneria called Kohli a liability in the current Indian T20 team.
“When the big guns were out, even then the team was performing, the youngsters were doing the job. The big player should understand that he is becoming a liability to the team. Virat Kohli has become a liability now. So either he needs to give up his place or make a comeback before the T20 World Cup,” said Kaneria on his YouTube channel.
Ajay Jadeja said Kohli’s place in India’s T20I team is no longer certain, citing that the team has better options available.
“Virat Kohli is a choice that you have to make. Do you want to play that solidity at the top and then get runs right at the back? It’s that old-style when Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma will bat at the top and you would have players like Dhoni where they get 60 in the last four overs,” Jadeja told Sony Sports Network.
“It depends on who you want to play. I feel you have a choice, it’s a tough one to make. If I had to pick a T20 side, Virat probably wouldn’t be there,” he added.
Veteran England spinner Graeme Swann feels that the fans and the media are putting added pressure on Kohli which is not working in his favour and they need to ease up a bit on the start asset.
“Maybe when you have got a player as good as him, if he was English and I was in the English media, I would be saying hey, we need to ease up on him, we need to take pressure off our star asset so that he performs rather than putting more undue pressure on him, just saying,” Swann said on the Sony Sports Network after the third T20I.
“As a player, you would feel the pressure from fans and fans have a job, that you can make it easier for your players or you can make it harder. If you do not want Virat Kohli in your team anymore, by all means keep on heaping the pressure or if you value the asset, then go easy on him,” he stated further.
Former India opener Virender Sehwag also took a dig at Kohli’s poor form in T20I series against England.
“India has so many batsman who can get going from the start, some of them are unfortunately sitting out. Need to find a way to play the best available players in current form in T-20 cricket. #IndvEng,” Sehwag tweeted.
However, Rohit Sharma hit back at Kohli’s critics after the T20I series against England.
“It’s not difficult at all for us (Kohli’s place in the XI) because we don’t listen to outside noise. Also, I don’t know who these experts are and why they’re called experts. I don’t get that,” said Sharma, adding, “They are seeing from outside, they don’t know what’s happening inside the team. We have a thought process, we make the team, we debate and discuss it, and think a lot about it. The players [we pick] are backed, they are given opportunities. People on the outside don’t know about it. So it’s more important about what’s happening within our team, that’s important for me,” Rohit said in the post-match press conference.