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Virat Kohli's T20I future hangs in the balance

The Times of India logo The Times of India 07-07-2022 Arani Basu
© Provided by The Times of India

NEW DELHI: Nine months after he relinquished T20I captaincy, Virat Kohli finds himself in a situation where he may have to fight hard to retain his place in the upcoming T20 World Cup in October. On Wednesday, the national selectors picked an ODI team for three matches in West Indies later this month. The team will be led by Shikhar Dhawan with Ravindra Jadeja as his deputy. Regular all-format captain Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah have all been rested.

However, TOI understands that Rohit, Pant and Pandya are likely to travel with the team to the Caribbean for the subsequent fivematch T20I series. As for Kohli, his T20I future will depend on how he performs in the two T20Is and ODIs in England over the next 10 days.

According to sources, the Indian team management and selectors are not clear about fitting Kohli in the T20I middle-order. “The T20I team has been withheld to evaluate the rest needed to be given to the top players. Rohit, Pant and Pandya are likely to play the T20Is in West Indies. Bumrah most likely will not be travelling to the Caribbean. As for Kohli, one needs to see what the team management decides on what it needs for the T20 World Cup. This limited-overs series in England is very crucial for Kohli,” a source said on Wednesday.

Kohli’s form across formats has not been convincing for over a year now. His struggles in T20 cricket surfaced even in this year’s IPL. He has looked a shadow of his free-flowing self. With India having multiple young and dynamic middle-order options in Suryakumar Yadav, Pant, Pandya, Jadeja, Deepak Hooda, Sanju Samson and Shreyas Iyer, Kohli may be falling behind in the race.

The Indian team management and selectors have been planning to play a full-strength core team in limited-overs cricket — particularly in T20I cricket — from this tour of England to build a settled team for the T20 World Cup. However, TOI has learnt that the Indian cricket board (BCCI) is unhappy with senior players frequently sitting out of series.

“In every selection meeting, the issue of workload management comes up. Players like Rohit, Kohli, Pandya, Bumrah and Shami are always talked about needing rest. All these players have always got the preference to get rest. The trainers and physios send notes to the selectors through the team management that these players need to be given rest,” the source said.

“These players sit out every second series. And all of them have good BCCI contracts. Rohit has barely played for India since he assumed full-time captaincy. Pandya just got back to playing for India. Bumrah and Shami too play select matches. And Kohli too has been given rest after each series. And then we realise that there is a struggle to form a settled team. Pant is the only cricketer who has played most for India in the last couple of years,” the source added.

Rohit has played two Tests, nine T20Is and three ODIs after assuming full-time captaincy in November. Kohli has played six Tests, six ODIs and two T20Is since November. Pandya didn’t play any competitive cricket after the T20 World Cup in November till the IPL before making his India comeback through 5 T20Is at home against South Africa and two T20Is in Ireland.

INDIA’S SQUAD FOR 3 ODIS IN WI: Shikhar Dhawan (Captain), Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shubman Gill, Deepak Hooda, Suryakumar Yadav, Shreyas Iyer, Ishan Kishan (wk), Sanju Samson (wk), Ravindra Jadeja (vice-captain), Shardul Thakur, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Avesh Khan, Prasidh Krishna, Mohd Siraj, Arshdeep Singh.

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