“Virat Kohli must score runs not only for India, but also for himself”: Sourav Ganguly

BCCI president Sourav Ganguly said on Friday that struggling batter Virat Kohli should score points not only for India, but also “for himself”. In the Asian Cup starting on Saturday in the UAE, Kohli will resume the quest to score his first international hundred since 2019, having failed in all his previous attempts. “He needs to score points not only for India, but also for himself. Hopefully it will be a good season for him. We are all convinced that he will come back,” Ganguly said during an interaction.

Kohli’s last international century came during the Pink Ball Test against Bangladesh at the Eden Gardens in 2019.

“I’m sure we’re all waiting for him to get that hundred, he’s working for it too,” Ganguly said.

“The chances of getting 100 in a T20 are smaller because of time. But hopefully this will be a big season for Kohli.”

The 33-year-old former India captain, who was last seen in action in England in June-July, is back after a month-long hiatus in which he skipped two whiteball series in the West Indies and Zimbabwe.

Kohli’s highest score in his last five games was 20 in India’s loss to England in the relocated fifth Test in Birmingham.

Kohli had also relinquished his captaincy at Royal Challengers Bangalore and had a quiet IPL 2022, scoring 341 runs from 16 matches at an average of 22.73.

Ganguly, while interacting with the media on the sidelines of Senco Gold & Diamonds’ DG Gold promotional event, declined to agree that a major player like Kohli could endure a lean spell as long as it lasts.

“He’s a really big player, been there for a long time. I know he has his own formula to score runs. It’s not possible that players of his stature can’t have such a long lean patch, I’m sure he will score runs.”

“If he wasn’t a great player, he wouldn’t have scored so many points for so long,” Ganguly insisted.

Defending champions India kick off their campaign with the big showdown with arch-rivals Pakistan in Dubai, about a year after losing to them in the T20 World Cup at the same venue.

Ganguly said the loss of the T20 World Cup would have little impact on the outcome of upcoming matches.

“I’ve been following Indo-Pak matches closely since 1992. In these 30 years we’ve only lost once. It’s not magic that you will always win. You lose once or twice, it’s okay,” said Ganguly .

Asked about the pressure of playing Pakistan, he said: “Those who regularly play cricket like in my playing time, it’s just another game where you’ve had to perform. I never played with ‘Pakistan, Pakistan’ alone. Maybe during a semi-final of the World Cup, a qualifier, those kinds of emotions were there.

“When you consider all that, I know that Rohit (Sharma), KL Rahul, Virat and (Rishabh) Pant know how to handle the pressure.”

Asked if Pakistan would miss their star player Shaheen Afridi, Ganguly said: “I don’t think one player makes a difference in a team. We don’t have (Jasprit) Bumrah either.”

Ganguly went on to say that the return of Hardik Pandya has been a huge boost for India after the IPL.

“Absolutely… He’s a huge asset next to his bowling. Last year he wasn’t fit to bowl, now he’s back to bowling. So he’s a huge asset,” he said.

“No team is a favorite in the T20 format. Did anyone think that Gujarat won the IPL. It’s a very different format. You have so little time to recover,” he said when asked about the favorites to pick the Asian Cup win.

Ganguly’s tenure as BCCI president will end in September, and a Supreme Court bench headed by Judge DY Chandrachud will rule on the board’s plea for an amendment to the “cooling off period” after six years in office. He had served in the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) before becoming the BCCI chief.

“It’s not in my hands. I don’t know, whatever will be asked, we’ll see,” said the 50-year-old when asked if he would like to continue after his term is up.

Ganguly went to football and said he was happy to see former players Bhaichung Bhutia and Kalyan Chaubey fighting for the post of president in the upcoming All India Football Federations (AIFF) elections.

“It’s always good when athletes come to the administration. It has to happen because they have much better knowledge of the game. It’s very good that Kalyan Chaubey and Bhaichung Bhutia are competing for the AIFF top position,” concluded Ganguly.

The AIFF elections are scheduled for September 2.

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