Will Rohit, Rahul, Virat be India’s top-three going into T20 World Cup?

PTI, May 5, 2022, 10:39 AM IST

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Their current form may not inspire confidence but skipper Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli will be indispensable in the Indian team during the T20 World Cup in Australia but a change in their batting order may be considered for the benefit of the side, say experts.

While IPL is an indicator of current form but the national selection committee under Chetan Sharma at this point is not even remotely harbouring any such thoughts, at least not for the time being.

However, one point that is being debated is whether skipper Rohit, his deputy Rahul and team’s premier batter Kohli will occupy the top three slots in the batting order at the mega event, set to be played in Australia in October-November.

In the last World T20, their batting order didn’t yield favourable results and the approach of the top three was mildly criticised as all of them employed pretty similar styles of first settling down and then going for attack.

Rohit since then has changed his approach and has been seen going hammer and tongs although big runs have eluded the India and MI captain.

Rohit certainly would like to better his 155 runs from 9 games at a strike-rate of 123.

Kohli’s woeful form has continued for way too long now and 186 runs in 10 games at a lowly strike-rate of 116 is neither indicative of former skipper’s quality nor his calibre.

Rahul is playing the role of an anchor for LSG and with 451 runs at an average of 145, he has been in a league of his own.

However, there is a worrying piece of statistic which skipper Rohit and coach Rahul Dravid will have to address before Team India hits road with some 15-odd T20Is lined up before World Cup.

The trio hasn’t exactly set the Powerplay (first six overs) on fire.

Sample this. In 10 games so far, Rahul has played 55 dots in Powerplay overs and has compiled a total of 141 off 126 balls in these overs across games with a strike-rate of 111.90.

In those games in PP overs, he has hit 15 fours and four sixes.

Rohit in this period has played 56 dots in powerplays in 9 games, scoring 136 off 104 balls at 130.76 strike-rate.

In case of Kohli, he has batted in Powerplay in seven games and has played 16 dot balls but scored 61 runs in 55 balls during the period.

The numbers show that all three are taking their time in the first six overs and perhaps even all three are playing, at least one — preferably Rahul can come down the batting order and allow a bit of rejig around Rohit and Virat.

So what do the experts think about the trio’s batting order? Former chairman of selectors MSK Prasad and his colleague Devang Gandhi had slightly divergent views while analyst former India keeper Deep Dasgupta had a completely different take.

“These three are indispensable if fit. There is no way that you can leave anyone of them for the World T20. But yes, if I look at numbers, I might just try someone like Shikhar Dhawan at the opening slot and check Rahul out at No. 4. He has a T20 hundred in Manchester some years back in middle-order, so why not,” Prasad told PTI.

“But yes, I want Virat to take a significant break and before the Asia Cup, he should be fresh, up and running,” Prasad said.

For Gandhi, in a big tournament like the T20 World Cup, he isn’t too keen on experimentation and doesn’t want to rock the boat.

“These are your proven performers and when they play for India, it is completely different from the roles they have for their franchises.

Also when we talk about changes, we should know who are the replacements? Are they good enough and better than those three in pressure scenario during a Pakistan game? You need to factor in,” Gandhi said.

For Dasgupta, T20 by nature is a game that warrants a different philosophy and guiding principles.

“In Tests or ODIs, we normally find players, check them out and accordingly assign roles to them. In T20, you need to do the reverse. You first decide roles and then fit in players.

“They can still play the trio as number 1, 2 and 3 but there has to be specific role which they should be told long before the tournament,” Dasgupta said.

Asked in case, a change is required, Dasgupta feels that Dhawan or Prithvi Shaw should be kept in the set-up and may be tried out if necessary.

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