Ahead of the first T20I, Virat Kohli has cleared the air that KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma are India’s first-choice openers, with Shikhar Dhawan their third opener in the squad. He also added that the Indian team have identified areas of weakness and have picked the squad to solve them this series.
India are one of the rare few sides in world cricket, who have a problem of plenty before the World T20, especially in the batsmen category, at the top of the batting order. While not only having World’s No.3 ranked T20I batsman in the form of KL Rahul, the Men in Blue also have Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, two of the best white-ball players of the past decade.
There was a certain aura of uncertainty before the first T20I, in terms of which player would get the nod over the other. However, Indian skipper Virat Kohli quashed the uncertainty, revealing that Rahul and Rohit are the first-choice openers in the shortest format. He also insisted that Dhawan would be the third opener in the squad, in case either Rohit or Rahul miss out.
“I don’t think so, if Rohit plays, then it is quite simple - Rohit and KL would open for us. If something happens to Rohit or KL, Shikhar Dhawan plays as the third opener. Rohit and Rahul would start for sure in the first T20I, that’s how we are going to operate,” Kohli cleared the air in the online presser on Thursday.
In terms of the squad picked, Kohli admitted that it was a clear and concise plan from the management to have X-factor guys in the middle-order, especially with the bat. He also added that it would be interesting to see them go out and perform, especially in a year where T20 cricket stands highly crucial.
“That’s a big possibility, where one player can pop in the squad and the setup. But if you look at the squad and the additions that we have made, we are looking at guys who can be an X-factor with the bat and we have picked them on the basis of their IPL performance. Now it will be interesting to see how they will go in this series, that too before the World T20. I feel like the squad we have right now will be the most balanced squad to take on the field.
“We have explosive batsmen in the setup now, who can change the game, even if we go two or three down. This time, you will see guys being more free and explosive. I think this series, we would play with more freedom and employ a different style.”
The Indian skipper, on the eve of the first T20I in Ahmedabad, also insisted that the individuals who have not cleared the fitness test in the recent past have to understand and appreciate the meticulous setup. He also expressed his disappointment over the players not taking these tests too seriously.
“Ya look, individuals (Varun Chakravarthy) have to understand and appreciate the system for the Indian cricket team. We should operate at a high level of fitness and skills, there is a reason that this is the top of the ladder. So you obviously expect players to be fit and be ready for that, there should be no space for compromise,” he added.
While there floated a possibility that Ravichandran Ashwin could make a come back in the T20 setup, Kohli flatly downplayed the suggestion, claiming that unless Washington Sundar has a really terrible season, the veteran Tamil Nadu spinner won’t be considered.
“Washington has been doing good for us, so you can’t have two players (Ashwin and Washi) for the same spot. Unless Washington has a bad season, we can’t fit Ashwin into the setup, so it’s that way for the Indian team at this point.”
The Indian skipper also didn’t rule out England’s chances in the World T20, insisting that they would be the ‘team to beat’ even though the tournament would be in India.
“No actually, I think England are the team to beat, the prime focus would be on them and not India. Every team would vary of them and their strength, England would walk as the favourites for the World T20, even though it is in India.”