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Are India right to push Virat Kohli out of the T20I setup?

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Last Updated on 11 months by Charbel Coorey

Cricket Opinion: Are India right to push Virat Kohli out of the T20I setup? | Why did India drop Virat Kohli from the T20I team?

The BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) took to their website and social media accounts on Wednesday, July 5 to reveal the Indian squad for the upcoming T20I series against West Indies.

The 15-man squad is as follows:

Ishan Kishan (wk), Shubman Gill, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Tilak Varma, Surya Kumar Yadav (VC), Sanju Samson (wk), Hardik Pandya (C), Axar Patel, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravi Bishnoi, Arshdeep Singh, Umran Malik, Avesh Khan, Mukesh Kumar.

One notable exclusion is Virat Kohli, the fourth consecutive time he has been left out of India’s T20I squad for a series.

Earlier, Rahul Dravid talked about managing the workload of certain players like Kohli and Rohit Sharma. However, it does not look like a workload-related exclusion anymore. By the looks of it, India may have decided to move on and push Kohli out of their T20I plans.

Pushing Virat Kohli out of T20I setup: Justified or too harsh?

But, have India been too harsh on Virat Kohli?

The 34-year old last played a T20I in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup last year. It was the semi-final against England where India were on the receiving end of a thumping 10-wicket defeat. Kohli, however, scored a half-century that game.

Prior to the semi-final, he had a magnificent run where he scored three fifties in five games. He was the leading run-scorer, scoring 296 runs in six games at an unbelievable average of 98.67.

In India’s first game of the campaign against arch-rivals Pakistan, he played arguably one of the greatest knocks ever in the history of T20I cricket. From the depths of 31-4 chasing 160, the batter scored a sensational 82 in front of a packed Melbourne crowd.

Cricket Opinion: Are India right to push Virat Kohli out of the T20I setup? | Why did India drop Virat Kohli from the T20I team?

He also had great games against Netherlands and Bangladesh, where he scored an unbeaten 62 and 64 respectively.

To think that Kohli was completely sidelined after such a campaign is astonishing. The Indian management too must have their reasons, though.

As good as Kohli was, his strike rates have always been cause for debate. There is no denying there are not many better than him at accelerating after reaching 50, but his tendency to start slow or slow down after the powerplay has often created a feeling that he lets go of the momentum in crucial phases of the game.

In the six games he played at the T20 World Cup last year, he managed to strike at 150 or more just once. He had a strike rate of less than 110 on two occasions, and struck at more than 140 just twice the entire campaign.

Is there room for anchors in the current landscape of T20 cricket?

The role of anchors in T20 cricket has long been a topic of debate. It is fine to hold one end during a collapse or play out a bowler in fine rhythm, but it is not acceptable to waste precious deliveries under normal circumstances.

Considering how deep teams bat today, Kohli’s strike rates do deserve criticism. He had a stellar tournament and he did score loads of runs, albeit at strike rates that seem ordinary for today’s power hitting standards in T20 cricket.

Thus, one can understand why India wish to give the younger batters a chance to show their explosiveness up the order. However, completely pushing an all-time great out of the picture does not seem right.

A few months later, the 2023 edition of the Indian Premier League was underway. This was going to be Kohli’s best chance to prove his mettle in this format once again, and he certainly did.

In just his first game of the season, he scored a brilliant 82 against Mumbai Indians and remained unbeaten. That was enough proof of what was about to come from the batter.

He went on to score a total of six fifties and two tons in the tournament. With back-to-back centuries against Sunrisers Hyderabad and Gujarat Titans to close his season out, he sent out a clear message to those who doubted him.

However, even after scoring 639 runs at an average of 53.25 in the IPL, he failed to earn a call-up for the upcoming series.

One notable observation is that he had a strike rate of less than 115 against spin in that campaign. This evident weakness might be one of the reasons why India is looking to move on and look for genuine power-hitters who can target both pacers and spinners in all phases of the game.

Whatever the thought process behind it is, after the kind of IPL season he had, he surely did deserve another chance in the national side. A player of his caliber and fitness can certainly change his game a bit to suit the side’s requirements. Thus, one could say that India have been a bit too harsh on Virat Kohli.

Rohit Sharma also a significant exclusion

Cricket Opinion: Are India right to push Virat Kohli out of the T20I setup? | Why did India drop Virat Kohli from the T20I team?

Another significant exclusion was Rohit Sharma’s. His last T20I, like Kohli, came in the same game against England in the T20 World Cup.

Hardik Pandya has been consistently leading India’s T20I side since that tournament. After the poor IPL season that Rohit had, where he averaged a little over 20, his comeback seems more unlikely. India have possibly found their new T20I captain in Hardik, who has had immense success in his two seasons as the skipper of Gujarat Titans.

Tilak Varma and Yashasvi Jaiswal earned their maiden call-ups after exceptional IPL performances over the last few seasons, and the 2023 one in particular.

Rinku Singh, unfairly, did not make India’s T20I squad. He pulled off the impossible by hitting five sixes in the last over to complete the chase against Gujarat Titans, and bailed his team out on a weekly basis with incredible performances. He averaged close to 60 while striking at about 150.

The T20I series between West Indies and India is set to commence on August 3, 2023. A total of five T20Is will be played; the first being played at the Queen’s Park Oval in Trinidad.

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