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Asia Cup 2022: Rahul’s struggles, Kohli’s slumber and out of sorts Avesh concern confident India

Updated: Sep 4, 2022

Asia Cup 2022: KL Rahul's lack of runs, Virat Kohli's fluency and Avesh Khan's poor run with ball are cause of concern for Team India.

Asia Cup 2022: Do India need to worry about Virat Kohli's Strike Rate in T20I ahead of T20 World Cup 2022? (Source: ©Getty Images)
Virat Kohli's slow start impacting India's approach in T20Is? (Source: ©Getty Images)

Defending champions India began their Asia Cup 2022 campaign on a bright note. They sealed a thrilling last over victory over arch-rivals Pakistan from the jaws of near defeat, while a comprehensive victory over Hong Kong promoted them to the Super 4 stage of the tournament along with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The sparkling part of both the successful games for India are different players stepping up at vital situations with their golden performances to do the job at hand. During the first match when Pakistan were looking to end on a high note, Bhuvneshwar Kumar spoiled their dream with a spell of 3/15 in two death overs, while Hardik Pandya displayed his all-round capabilities to take India over the line.

Even in the second game against Hong Kong when India were going at a slow rate, they required some late firepower and Suryakumar Yadav expressed himself in the best way to produce a splendid knock to carry India to a match-winning total.

But a closer look at the team would tell that there are still a few elephants in the room whose indifference might prove costly at any stage of this tournament or perhaps in October’s T20 World Cup in Australia.

Asia Cup 2022: KL Rahul has scored 0 & 36 off 39 so far in Asia Cup for India. Do India need to look out for KL Rahul's replacement at the top? | Walking Wicket (Photos: ©AFP_Getty Images)
Do India need to panic with KL Rahul's poor run in T20Is? (Photos: ©AFP/Getty Images)

KL Rahul’s mindset differs from India’s current template

Since the end of the last T20 World Cup in 2021 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), India’s mantra in the shortest format of the game has changed. Under Rohit Sharma’s leadership, they have rediscovered their template with more intent, positivity and aggression. However, KL Rahul felt like a little kid who has skipped those classes.

Since returning from injury, Rahul has been in cold form of late in different forms of the game. After low scores of 1 and 30 in the recent Zimbabwe ODIs, Rahul didn’t turn up well in Asia Cup 2022 too. In India’s opening game against Pakistan, Rahul was dismissed on a first ball duck against Naseem Shah whose firing delivery took the inside edge of Rahul’s bat and promptly disturbed the furniture. There was so much expectation that Rahul might find the game against Hong Kong as the best chance to get back in full rhythm but it was a total disaster.

On a slow Dubai surface against an inexperienced Hong Kong bowling line-up, KL Rahul ended up with 36 off 39 deliveries, with as many as 16 dot balls. When he was sent back to the dressing room on the last ball of the 13th over, Rahul had just two sixes besides his name, one of these sixes was his only boundary in the powerplay and that too came on a free hit delivery.

For someone like KL Rahul who has all the shots in his book, his dry run is getting hard to digest with every passing innings and the most disappointing part of that knock against Hong Kong was that Rahul didn’t show any sign of intent to go for the big shots. The question is that what should India do with their designated vice-captain, who even after averaging near 40 and striking over 140 in T20Is has struggled to play according to the new template.

Common sense and logic may point out that India should try some fresh minds of Rishabh Pant or Suryakumar Yadav at the opening slot, who too has done well in that slot whenever given an opportunity there in the past. With plenty of attacking options available, KL Rahul has to hit his straps in time to get a ticket for the upcoming T20 World Cup.

Asia Cup 2022, Group B, India vs Hong Kong_ Virat Kohli scores 59 of 44 balls at a strike rate of 134.09 against Honk Kong  _ Walking Wicket (Photos_ ©BCCI_Twitter)
Virat Kohli scored 59 off 44 vs HK and 35 off 34 vs PAK (Photos: ©BCCI/Twitter)

Is Kohli’s current form enough to keep him in the T20I set-up?

T20 cricket has changed its frame and it’s now more exciting and quicker both for the players and the fans. Just like KL Rahul, Virat Kohli too even after scoring a good amount of runs in the Asia Cup seems to be struggling with the new approach.

Undoubtedly, he has looked in good run of form in both games of the Asia Cup. Coming in the very first over against Pakistan, Kohli slammed a vital 35 runs in 34 balls that helped India to deny further damage at the top. During the second game too, Kohli crunched an unbeaten 44-ball 59 knock that was arranged with just a solitary boundary and three maximums. But was this enough for him to keep pace with the current T20 set-up of the team?

Anyone who wants to bring up Virat Kohli’s overall T20I record of 3,402 runs at a strike rate of 137.12 is living in his own world. Even after that half-century against Hong Kong, Kohli’s struggle on the slow surface early in his innings when he doesn’t go for big shots too often was visible clearly.

If a player strikes in T20s at a rate of 130, then his team will reach around 160, which is never a safe score especially these days, but if the player increases his strike rate to 145, then the total will touch 180, which is far better in the shortest format of the game. The longer someone bats at a low pace, the worse it is for his team.

In the game against Hong Kong, Kohli was on 38 off 33 after 15 overs and if he was somehow dismissed at that point, that would have affected the team’s grand total. No one can expect India’s middle-order to come good on every single occasion. Cut to 2016, when Virat Kohli smashed 973 runs in the Indian Premier League (IPL), he smashed those runs at 152.03 while since then, he touched 140+ strike rate in the IPL only once in 2019.

Virat Kohli’s form in T20Is has been poor since the beginning of 2020. A strike rate of close to 148 in 2019 fell to 141.82 in 2020, and collapsed further to 132.88 the following year. Kohli’s scoring rate of 124.11 in 2022 is the lowest in his career and that was why no one missed his absence for a month. Even though those victories came against West Indies or Zimbabwe, the young players were ready to step up and do the job for their country.

Every great side in the shortest format has the most dynamic and destructive top three who can offer their side the most powerful start in the powerplay, while India has two same sort of players which is perhaps affecting opener Rohit Sharma in some cases.

Asia Cup 2022: Avesh Khan leaked 53 runs in 4 overs against Hong Kong _ Walking Wicket (Images ©BCCI)
Avesh Khan leaked 53 runs in 4 overs against Hong Kong (Images ©BCCI)

Avesh Khan: Not climbing up to expectations

Even in the bowling department, Avesh Khan seems to be the weakest link in the side. India have provided him several chances in the last few months but he still hasn’t clicked in international cricket.

When Avesh Khan found a lone ODI game in Zimbabwe, he returned with figures of 3/66. There was already pressure on his shoulder to stand up to expectations. In the first game against Pakistan, Avesh Khan was given just two overs where he gave away 19 runs before bouncing out Fakhar Zaman.

In a relatively easier game against Hong Kong, Avesh had an evening to forget as he leaked 1/53 in four overs. When Rohit Sharma brought him for a two-over spell in the middle overs, Avesh was belted for two boundaries and one six. In his last over which was the 19th over of the second innings, Hong Kong’s number six and seven batters, Zeeshan Ali and Scott McKechnie, earned 21 runs from the over with two maximums and couple of boundaries.

In his short seven-match T20I career, Avesh Khan has been clubbed for 114 runs in 38 balls in the death overs. He is yet to bowl more than one over in the death overs; four out of those seven times, he has leaked more than 15 runs in that one over while on one occasion, he was blasted for 12 runs in two balls.

With Avesh Khan not doing justice to his place, it will be interesting to see how India manage him in the Super 4 stage of the tournament. They may think of including Deepak Chahar in the main squad.

Earlier today, Rahul Dravid in the pre-match press conference said that, "Avesh Khan is down with fever, doctors are managing the situation, he is not at practice today hopefully he is not too serious and should be okay for tomorrow’s game (vs Pakistan)".

India will take on Pakistan next in their first game of the Super 4 stage of Asia Cup 2022 on September 4 at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai.


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