India tour of West Indies 2022: Virat Kohli rested for T20I and ODI series against West Indies. He averages 20.25 from 4 T20I played in 2022, the lowest he has ever averaged in T20 cricket in 10 years.
There are less than 100 days left before the ICC T20 World Cup 2022 kicks off with a first round match between Sri Lanka and Namibia at the Kardinia Park in Geelong on October 16, and there are 101 headaches for the Indian selectors with regards to the squad that will travel down under. If anyone had the ability to see the future with a crystal ball, one could safely bet that even "Paul the Octopus" wouldn’t have figured that in 2022, India would be sceptical about picking "The Virat Kohli" in the starting eleven. As they say, no one is bigger than the game, and the game waits for no one.
Numbers don’t lie & the likes of Hooda and SKY have fabulous numbers
With one eye on the T20 World Cup and one on the current form of players, India are going through what we call "The Problem of Plenty". The likes of Deepak Hooda and Suryakumar Yadav have come up the ranks by toiling hard on the field when the stalwarts were resting. In the six international matches that Hooda has featured in so far, he has averaged 68.33 at an astonishing strike rate of 172.27. In fact, Deepak Hooda has an average of 68.50 and strikes at 185.14 batting at number 3 for India with a century to boot. What led to the resurgence of Deepak Hooda was Indian Premier League’s (IPL) 2022 season, where he majorly batted at numbers 3 and 4 for Lucknow Super Giants (LSG), scoring 451 runs in 14 innings at a strike rate of above 136.66.
On the other hand, Suryakumar Yadav is redefining the meaning of "SKY is the limit" as he has become the limitless batter for India who has this natural ability to adapt to pace and spin and score at a brisk pace at the same time. SKY averages 33.95 in the 15 innings, scoring 438 runs at a strike rate of 170.82 batting at numbers 3 and 4. Surya’s knock of 117 against England in the third T20I of the recently concluded series has made the fans go berserk.
India always wanted a 360-degree player who can take on spinners, seamers and any other bowler on the park at will. Suryakumar’s book of cricketing shots has redefined unorthodox cricket for India in recent times, with praise coming from none other than India’s god of cricket, Sachin Tendulkar.
Kohli’s strike rate witnessing constant slide
India’s most prolific run-scorer in the past decade, Virat Kohli, averages 54.87 at number 3 with a strike rate of 135.96 in 63 innings for India. The strike rate is the worrying sign for Kohli. With India’s new age batting approach of going hard from ball one, comes the catch for Kohli, who takes time to settle in initially. Since 2019, when Kohli had a strike rate of 147.94, it has come down, falling like his own form with the bat to 132.89 in 2021 and 128.57 in 2022. In fact, Virat Kohli has just played 4 T20I matches in 2022, scoring just 81 runs where he averages 20.25, the lowest he has ever averaged in T20 cricket in 10 years. Furthermore, he is rested for the West Indies series (5 T20Is + 3 ODIs), leaving Kohli with only the Asia Cup to make a case for himself before the ICC T20 World Cup 2022.
As the cricketing greats have said, no batter comes back in form by sitting out and resting. The only way for a player to come back to form is to play, play and play more matches, and that has clearly not been the case with the former India captain, Mr Kohli.
The twist in the tale of Kohli vs Youngsters debate narrows down when we talk about Kohli’s performance in the T20 world cups. On one hand, where the likes of Deepak Hooda, Suryakumar Yadav and Shreyas Iyer have barely played on the World Cup circuit, Kohli has been the real King in the T20 World Cups with 845 runs in 19 innings at an inhuman average of 80.77. The problem that persists for Kohli is the low strike rate of 124.61, which acts as a roadblock in India’s new T20 approach.
The Cricket Experts and their "vishesh tippani" (special comments) on Kohli:
The Haryana Hurricane, Kapil Dev came out spitting facts about King Kohli and his lack of form in the recent past. Kapil told ABP News, "Play in-form players when you have loads of options. You can't just go by reputation, but you have to look for current form. You can be an established player, but that doesn't mean you will be given chances even if you fail five games in a row. If the world's number 2 Test bowler, Ravichandran Ashwin can be dropped from the Test side, then your number 1 batter can also be dropped."
Former India players Virender Sehwag and India's legendary bowler, Venkatesh Prasad, didn't mince their words when criticising Kohli. Taking to his Twitter handle, Prasad slammed the thinking of the current Team India setup. He wrote: “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 gone back to domestic cricket, scored runs and staged a comeback.”
The former India pacer continued: "The yardsticks seem to have changed drastically now, where there is rest for being out of form. This is no way to progress. There is so much talent in the country that you cannot play on reputation. One of India’s greatest match-winners, Anil Kumble, sat out on so many occasions, needed action for the greater good."
Rohit Sharma defends Virat Kohli
There was a time when Virat Kohli used to butcher bowlers left, right and centre, but now the critics have started mentally pressuring the India camp from all corners over his lack of form. However, amidst the chaos, India’s all-format captain, Rohit Sharma, has come back to the media defending his senior pro.
"The experts are watching the game from outside and do not know what is happening inside. We have our own thought process. We build our team, and behind this, there is a lot of thinking. We back the boys and give them opportunities. So, these are things you do not get to know from outside,” Rohit said in a press conference after the T20I series against England.
"So, whatever is happening outside is not important, but what is happening inside is more important for us," he added.
“If you talk about form, then everyone goes through ups and downs. The player's quality does not get affected. So, we should keep these things in our mind. When a player has been doing well for so many years, then one or two bad series does not make him a bad player. We should not overlook his past performances. We, who are in the team, know the importance of the player. They have got all the right to talk about it, but it does not matter to us too much," he further said.
Have we seen the last of Kohli in T20Is?
After India’s T20I side for West Indies was announced on July 14, the intriguing question is whether Kohli was dropped or has he again opted for rest from T20Is. With respect to players' rest needs, Little Master, Sunil Gavaskar had an interesting take on the topic. Taking a dig at players being rested far too frequently, Gavaskar told Sports Tak, "See, I do not agree with this concept of players resting. Not at all. 'If you don't take rest during the IPL, then why ask for it while playing for India? I don't agree with it. You will have to play for India. Don't talk about rest."
The climax to the story comes with where the T20 World Cup 2022 is being played, down under in Australia. Virat Kohli has a strike rate of 144.55 batting in Australia, where he has scored 451 runs in 10 innings in the backyard of the Kangaroos. It will only be a matter of time before India rethink how Kohli fits into the picture, with the new age T20 approach of striking at every ball, regardless of wickets falling from the other end. Whether it will be the last T20 World Cup for Kohli or Kohli has played his last T20 World Cup already? Only time will tell that.
Squad for India's tour of West Indies 2022 for 5 T20Is
Rohit Sharma (C), I Kishan, KL Rahul*, Suryakumar Yadav, D Hooda, S Iyer, D Karthik, R Pant, H Pandya, R Jadeja, Axar Patel, R Ashwin, R Bishnoi, Kuldeep Yadav*, B Kumar, Avesh Khan, Harshal Patel, Arshdeep Singh.
*Inclusion of KL Rahul & Kuldeep Yadav is subject to fitness.