Given that the T20 World Cup is being held in Australia this year, Virat Kohli’s poor performance has gained significant attention.
Virat Kohli is scoring runs like it’s 2019 and a game. In the opening day-night Test match between India and Bangladesh at Eden Gardens, he just reached 100 runs. Every analyst and supporter agrees that the right-hander is the finest hitter right now, therefore it would be laughable to suggest that three years from now, Kohli’s position in the T20 setup would be a major worry and there would be cries to bench him. In 2022, one must carefully consider if Virat, in his current form, merits a spot in the T20 lineup.
Kohli has so far participated in four T20Is for India in 2022, recording scores of 17, 52, 1, and 11. In the T20Is, the last two scores were against England. When it comes to the number three place in T20Is, there was a period when Kohli was the only option. He was the prototypical pivot, keeping the innings together with his capacity to switch up the strike and, when necessary, score quickly. But both of those skills are now temporarily, if not permanently, waning.
The fact that Deepak Hooda has scored runs in the top order and has an excellent strike rate just complicates matters further. This is the main reason why when Hooda was benched for the second T20I as Kohli entered the lineup, fans vented their frustration on social media.
Kohli’s scores in the previous 10 T20I innings have been 77, 1, 80, 57, 9, 2, 17, 52, 1, and 11. If one were to judge Kohli solely on the basis of statistics, how could he be benched when he had four fifty-plus scores in his last ten games? Six of these matches were played last year, and there has been a significant improvement since then.
Even though Kohli hasn’t scored an international century since November 2019, he is still scoring in the fifties, and the maverick batter’s inability to reach the three-figure threshold is all that is stopping him. However, the batter currently appears to be out of shape and, at least in the shortest format, it appears from the outside that the right-handed batter is attempting to create shots out of thin air.
Although Kohli is not the type of batter who just tees off right away, it has appeared that he is straining too much. This year, Kohli’s IPL statistics weren’t spectacular either; he scored just 341 runs in 16 games at a strike rate of 115.99.
In terms of the young players, Deepak Hooda has emerged over the course of the last few games and is now supplying the firepower at the top that a T20 game demands. The fact that Team India has finally realised the necessity of attacking right away in order to have the best chance of consistently recording scores of 180-200 just makes matters worse for Kohli. With all of this pressure, Kohli might try too hard, which would only make his recent poor dip worse. And if one is being practical, Tests and ODIs—rather than T20Is—are where Team India will need Kohli the batter the most.
The biggest obstacle for India in the last T20 World Cup was the batting strategy and how KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, and Virat Kohli batted in much the same gears. India has a lineup that is fully revitalised in 2022, with batters throwing everything they’ve got from the first ball.
In his 98 T20I matches to date, Kohli has amassed 3297 runs at an average of 50.72 and a strike rate of 137.94. Overall statistics are undeniable, but given the batter’s form this year with the World Cup in Australia coming up in a few months, do the selectors want to give Kohli a lengthy leash in the shortest format or do they want him to focus in ODIs and Tests and try to rediscover his mojo?
It’s true that benching Kohli is a difficult chore. The supporters would speak up, and there might be pundits who would criticise the move everywhere. The passionate defence of Kohli offered by captain Rohit Sharma in the post-third T20I presser against England demonstrates how crucial Kohli is to the team’s strategy.
The pressure on Kohli will only increase, though, as Hooda continues to play well and players in the middle order like Suryakumar Yadav and Hardik Pandya succeed.
After taking over, head coach Rahul Dravid has already had to make some difficult choices, including benching Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane for the Tests against Sri Lanka, removing Wriddhiman Saha from the Test squad, and telling him outright that he would not be considered for selection because they wanted to give youngster Srikar Bharat a chance. Additionally, due to injuries, he had to manage a somewhat challenging captaincy transition and a lot more team rotations.
However, handling the Kohli situation might be his most challenging assignment to date. Everyone faces a difficult path ahead, but the good news is that India has a tonne of games scheduled to give everyone a chance and ultimately make the decision that would be best for the team.