Even Virat is human…

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Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli’s match-winning unbeaten 94 (off 50 balls) against the West Indies at Hyderabad on Friday is yet another personification of the team’s over-reliance on Kohli when the chips are down. But with an eye on the all-important T20 World Cup, is it prudent to solely look to the Indian captain to see the team through?

Objectively speaking, the middle-order in T20Is is collapsing and if the likes of Rohit Sharma and Kohli fail to get going, crisis looms large. And this is where experience comes into play which the selectors and the team management need to look into.

Kohli has been the stand-out performer with scores of 4, 61 NO,24, 72 NO, 19, 28, 59, 72 NO, 9 and 94 NO in his last few T20Is starting with the outing against Australia Down Under. In Hyderabad, he yet again snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with a calculative but an aggressive knock.

Rohit in the last few T20Is (starting from the series in West Indies) has had scores of 24, 67, 12, 9, 9, 85, 2 and 8 – flirtatious consistency to sum it up. Rohit’s opening partner Shikhar Dhawan has been extremely patchy with scores of 1, 23, 3, 40, 36, 41, 31 and 19.

But what is startling is the inability of the juniors to bell the cat when the seniors flounder. Have a look at these figures: Rishabh Pant (0, 4, 65 NO, 4, 19, 27, 6 and 18) and Shreyas Iyer (16 NO, 5, 22, 24 NO, 62 and 4) lack consistency and Hardik Pandya (in and out of the team due to injuries) also didn’t trouble the scorer much down the order in the matches he featured in recent times. Rahul has found touch of late which is somewhat assuring.

The current Indian T20 team may be on a winning spree, but the chinks in the armour could be detrimental if not handled adroitly. You need experience down the order to rescue the team if the top order gets dismissed cheaply (including Kohli at Number 3). The Kohli-Ravi Shastri combination has a tall order to stem this crisis, but the inclusion of Ajinkya Rahane could be a solution eyeing the World Cup

In the shortest format of the game, this is certainly an area which needs to be addressed. The problem is that we are resting too much on Kohli’s shoulders without realising that he is not infallible. It is true that somebody or the other gives Kohli company like KL Rahul in Hyderabad on Friday, but he remains the pivot. This runs contrary to the scenario in the five-day format with enough solidity and depth in the batting. In a team game, it is imperative that there are ones to fall back upon if the stalwarts disappoint. Individual heroics do not come in handy all the time.

But such has been the trend with the Indian team over the years – Sunil Gavaskar between the late ‘70s and early ‘80s in Tests and later Sachin Tendulkar both in Tests and ODIs (before the Dravids, Laxmans, Sehwags and Gangulys took the load off the Master Blaster) had to resuscitate the side frequently.

The current Indian T20 team may be  on a winning spree, but the chinks in the armour could be detrimental if not handled adroitly. You need experience down the order to rescue the team if the top order gets dismissed cheaply (including Kohli at Number 3). The Kohli-Ravi Shastri combination has a tall order to stem this crisis, but the inclusion of Ajinkya Rahane could be a solution eyeing the World Cup. Rahane found himself out of favour in T20Is and ODIs on the ground of not being able to rotate the strike which sounded nothing but ridiculous. Rahane opening the innings in T20s, has had a great run for Rajasthan Royals in the IPL. In fact, apart from anchoring the innings, he can also cut loose. And his ordinary international average of 20.83 and a strike rate of 113.29 should not play spoilsport as the man with enormous experience deserves another go. If Rahane clicks, then we can look at a Rohit-Rahul, Kohli, Rahane, Iyer/Manish Pandey, Pant/Samson) and Jadeja combination to bolster the Indian batting. And then there are Shikhar Dhawan and Shubman Gill and even Pandya also in the fray. And you never know – somebody from Ranchi with the tag of the ‘best finisher’ can also get a look-in subject to his fitness and form.

The World Cup will be played in Australia and Rahane’s seniority and record off-shores (in Tests though) should give him the edge over others. But it is also time that youngsters like Iyer and Pant joined the party if they are to figure in the team’s long-term scheme of things. Both have been given a long rope.

The tremors are not making a sporadic appearance and are sending warning signals. The T20 WC is still ten months away, and this gives Kohli and Shastri ample time for permutation and combination. Experimentation is a must but that does not necessarily mean banking on youth at the expense of experience. Is anybody all ears?

 

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