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Should Kohli Continue As Opener?

June 19, 2024 07:39 IST
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IMAGE: Virat Kohli has scores of 1, 4 and 0 in the three matches of the group stages of the T20 World Cup. Photograph: Andrew Kelly/Reuters

After getting through the group stages unscathed, India will face a tough match against Afghanistan in their opening match of the Super 8 round of the T20 World Cup in Barbados on Thursday, June 20, 2024.

India won their first three games against Ireland, Pakistan and the USA on a tough pitch in New York before the final group game against Canada in Florida was washed out.

With the World Cup now shifting entirely to the Caribbean from the Super 8 stage onwards, the Indian batters will breathe a sigh of relief.

It has not been easy going for India's batters at the Nassau stadium in New York, where the pitch offered a lot of assistance to the bowlers and run scoring became very difficult.

India's eight wicket victory against Ireland when they chased down 97 in the 13th over was perhaps the only game where the batters performed with some authority on the tricky pitch in New York.

The pitch at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados, might produce a better balanced contest between the bat and ball.

In the last match played at this venue, the T20 World Cup group match between Australia and England, Australia amassed 201/7 in their 20 overs before England responded with 165/6 to lose by 36 runs.

At the same venue, Australia piled on 164/5 against Oman, who could only manage 125/9. In another game in Barbados, Scotland chased down Namibia's 155/9 pretty easily in the 19th over with five wickets in hand.

India's players fresh from the high-scoring games in IPL 2024 were unable to impose themselves in the World Cup. Rohit Sharma and Suryakumar Yadav are the only two batters to have hit a fifty in the three group matches, while Rishabh Pant is the top run-getter with 96 runs from three innings.

The big worry for India is the form of Virat Kohli, who failed in all the three games managing a total of five runs in nine balls faced.

The team management has a big decision to make whether to persist with Kohli as the opener or push him down to No. 3 where he has boasts of amazing records in One-Day Internationals.

If Kohli comes at No. 3, India might consider swapping his role with Pant, who is likely to open. The other option for India would be bring in Yashasvi Jaiswal, a specialist opener across formats, which could mean they either leave out an all-rounder in Shivam Dube or an extra bowler.

Dube hasn't done much either with the bat, the only saving grace being his watchful knock of 34 against the USA in a tough run chase. It remains to be seen if he continues to be preferred ahead of Jaiswal or Sanju Samson.

Among the bowlers, it is hard to figure out why Kuldeep Yadav has been unable to find a place in the playing XI. Ravindra Jadeja hasn't picked a wicket while bowling only three overs in as many games while Axar Patel has claimed three wickets at an economy rate of 6.50.

The only reason the left-arm duo have preferred ahead of Kuldeep is because of their ability to score runs down the order. With their three specialist pacers also not that handy with the bat, India are looking towards the spinners to contribute with the bat if the situation arises.

Afghanistan, who won three out of their four group matches, might not be easy opponents for the Indians. They are led by spin maverick Rashid Khan, one of the top spinners in the world in T20 cricket, and who on his day is capable of running through any batting order.

The likes of Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Mohammad Nabi, Naveen-ul-Haq, Noor Ahmad and Fazalhaq Farooqi have considerable experience of playing T20 cricket in the top leagues around the world.

Gurbaz, who was part of KKR's IPL winning team, has been in good form with 167 runs from four matches at a strike rate of 150, including two fifties, while opener Ibrahim Zadran has been consistent with 152 runs.

Left-arm pacer Farooqi is the top wicket-taker in the World Cup with 12 wickets at an economy of 5.58, while Rashid (6 wickets) and Naveen (5 wickets) have also done well.

Except for their 104 run hammering against the West Indies, Afghanistan have been the dominant team with the ball so far. They bowled out the opposition for under 95 in their first games against Uganda, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

India are likely to play the same team against Afghanistan, including five specialist bowlers -- three pacers and two spinners.

Probable XI: Rohit Sharma (captain), Virat Kohli, Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Shivam Dube, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Jasprit Bumrah, Arshdeep Singh, Mohammed Siraj.

Who do you think should be part of the Indian team for the T20 World Cup Super 8s match against Afghanistan?

Please select your team from the list below and do post your playing XI in the message board below:

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