Can India afford to drop Virat Kohli from the T20 World Cup squad?

It’s 2019 and Virat Kohli is scoring runs for fun. He just got 100 against Bangladesh in India’s inaugural day-night test at the Eden Gardens. Every pundit and fan believes that the right-hander is currently the best hitter and if someone were to say that three years later, Kohli’s place in the T20 lineup would be a major concern and there would be calls for him to be benched. , one might say just laugh at the brutality of the thought. Fast forward to 2022, and one seriously has to wonder if Virat in its current form deserves a place in the T20 lineup?

In 2022, Kohli has played four T20Is for India so far, with scores of 17, 52, 1 and 11. The final two scores came against England in the T20Is. There was a time when you couldn’t look further than Kohli in the number three spot in T20Is. He was the ultimate linchpin, keeping the innings together with his ability to turn the attack and also score quick runs when needed. But both abilities are now diminishing, temporarily, if not forever.

Complicating matters is that Deepak Hooda has scored points in the highest order and his strike rate has been top notch. This is the main reason fans took to social media to express their disappointment when Hooda was on the bench for the second T20I when Kohli entered the lineup.

In the last 10 T20I innings, Kohli’s scores were 77, 1, 80, 57, 9, 2, 17, 52, 1, and 11. Now if you go by numbers alone you would say how can Kohli be removed if he has four fifties in his last 10 games? It is important to note that 6 of these matches were played last year, and there is a stark contrast between then and now.

Kohli may not have hit an international ton since November 2019, but he still turned fifty and the point was that the maverick batter couldn’t reach the three-digit mark. Now, however, the batter looks absolutely out of shape and from the outside it looks like the right-handed batter is trying to make shots out of nowhere, at least in the shortest format.

Kohli isn’t the kind of batter who stalls from the start, but he seems to be trying too hard. Kohli’s IPL numbers weren’t as good this year either, with just 341 runs in 16 games with a 115.99 strike rate.

Speaking of the youngsters, Deepak Hooda has come into his own in the last few matches and he provides that top-end firepower needed in a T20 game. What makes matters worse for Kohli is that Team India has finally realized that they need to attack from the start to have the best chance of consistently posting scores of 180-200. With this pressure, Kohli could be trying too hard and his slump in form could only continue. And realistically, Team India Kohli needs the batter more in tests and ODIs than in T20Is.

In the last T20 World Cup, the biggest roadblock for India was the batting approach and how KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli slammed into almost the same gears. In 2022, India has really found a rejuvenated lineup, with batters going to hell from first ball for leather.

Kohli has played 98 T20Is to date, scoring 3,297 runs with an average of 50.72 and a strike rate of 137.94. The total numbers cannot be debated, but with the kind of form the batter has been in this year, and with the World Cup in Australia in a few months, the selectors want to give the batter a long rope in the shortest format, or do they ask Kohli to focus on ODIs and Tests and work on recovering his mojo.

Certainly, Kohli banking is not an easy task. The fans would get vocal and there would be pundits who could criticize the movement left, right and centre. Captain Rohit Sharma’s impassioned defense of Kohli in the press conference after the third T20I against England shows just how important Kohli is to the team’s plans.

However, with Hooda showing form and the likes of Suryakumar Yadav and Hardik Pandya getting the job done in the middle order, the pressure on Kohli will only increase.

Head coach Rahul Dravid has already had his share of tough decisions after taking charge such as dropping Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane for Tests against Sri Lanka, dropping Wriddhiman Saha from the Test squad and telling him vocally that he would not qualify for selection because she wants to try younger Srikar Bharat. He also oversaw a rather difficult captaincy transition and has faced many more captain armband and team rotations due to injuries.

Solving the Kohli issue is arguably his most difficult task yet. It is a hard road for everyone but the great thing is that India has a lot of matches on the schedule to give everyone chances and finally make the decision that would serve the team best.

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