Indian cricket team
Virat Kohli’s return to form in the Asia Cup has coincided with KL Rahul’s struggles as an opener.
This has sparked a new debate ahead of the T20 World Cup: should the former India captain open the innings and not bat one-down?
It also gained credence after Kohli notched up his maiden T20I century, against Afghanistan, when he opened with Rahul.
Former openers Gautam Gambhir and Matthew Hayden feel Kohli should continue batting at No.3.
“...In a T20 format, there is a huge difference in playing in the first six (overs) and after the first six... Virat goes into the Australia series with a lot of confidence and I hope he continues his form because he is going to be very useful if India has to play well in the World Cup because it’s (No.3) a very important position,” Gambhir said during an interaction organised by Star Sports.
Hayden echoed Gambhir and said there should be no debate on the issue.
“Virat, you know, he’s such a great player of fast bowling... And this great debate around Virat batting up... there’s no way that he has to open the batting, he has to bat at No. 3, simple as that,” Hayden said.
“And again, it’s another one of those things, that you don’t want to let the door open to a discussion on this. You don’t want to have a doubt... Just let the batting order rely on its own form and Kohli can handle the situation. He’s a world-class player, he should bat at three.”
“He can manipulate the strike; his running is just off the charts. He can control the innings. I think the top four positions are locked,” Hayden said.
Gambhir supported Hayden’s argument.
“That’s a very valid point, the moment someone starts doing very well, for example, if Virat Kohli has got a hundred in the last game, we all start forgetting about what KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma have done over such a long period of time. And suddenly when you start this debate about Virat opening the batting, imagine what happens to KL Rahul... you don’t want your top-class players to be under pressure, especially someone like KL Rahul, who’s got probably more ability than Rohit Sharma or Virat Kohli.”
Both Gambhir and Hayden felt it was time to support those who had been picked and not think about someone like Mohammed Shami.
“If Shami starts performing really well, then there would be a lot of question marks for selectors on why he is not on the plane to Australia. And imagine if Arshdeep, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, or Harshal Patel, if one of these is having a bad day, then there would be more question marks. So, go with the guys who you have already picked irrespective of whether they are doing well or not,” Gambhir said.
Hayden also wanted to look beyond Shami.
“When you look at someone like Shami, has he got any extra surprises that Australian cricket hasn’t seen before? Yes, he is a brilliant cricketer and he has the ability to take wickets. But is he going to be as good as a Bumrah? I think it is too easy to think about the glass being half-full but you must back yourself.”
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