National selector Saba Karim has revealed Virat Kohli has been given the freedom to decide whether he wants to play the ODIs in Zimbabwe next or come back directly for the Asia Cup. He went on to explain Kohli's importance in the Indian squad and gave a rough blueprint for the batsman's future.
If there were not enough questions about Virat Kohli already, the dismal tour of England and subsequent anonymity of the player's next appearance for India have only added fuel to the fire. He was absent from the recently concluded ODI series against West Indies and was not named in the squad for the five T20Is as well. With the all-important T20 World Cup set to start in less than three months' time, people have begun to speculate whether Kohli will even make the Indian lineup for the marquee event.
After a long time, however, an official source in the form of national selector Saba Karim has come forward to provide some clarity to the masses. The former Indian wicket-keeper has confirmed it is upon Kohli's discretion on whether he wants to play in India's next assignment after returning from the Caribbean, a three-match ODI series in Zimbabwe. The series will end on 22 August and will be followed by the Asia Cup in UAE, for which the talisman has already confirmed his participation if given an opportunity.
"First, I think the selectors and the team management have to figure out whether Virat Kohli is essential for India's preparation for India's T20 World Cup side or not. And once the selectors decide the team management feels that Virat Kohli is essential to the team’s success then I’d chart a path for Virat Kohli’s come back to great form," Karim told Sports18's daily sports news show ‘SPORTS OVER THE TOP.’
"I think that's the time when the selectors or the captain or Rahul Dravid would love to have a chat with him and then try and take it forward. I would not want to have any kind of imposition on Virat Kohli that ‘Hey listen, you have to come back and play this Zimbabwe series otherwise we’ll not pick you for the World Cup T20.’"
"So, I think once you decide that he is such an essential player for the team’s success, then I reach out to him. I’ll say okay, it is up to you to decide whether you want to come back and play the Zimbabwe ODI or you want to take an extended break and come back for the Asia Cup T20," he added.
The fact that the 33-year-old has not scored an international century since November 2019 has surely become etched in the subconscious of every Indian fan by now, as the top-order batter's terrible run continued in England. Across the three formats, he managed a meek 74 runs in six innings averaging below 15. Nevertheless, Karim remains firm in his opinion that India cannot afford to err by omitting Kohli from the national dressing room considering his past accolades.
"I would say that'd be a blunder from India's perspective. Never do that. And I think Virat is such an important figure in the Indian line-up. The way I look at it, the way Rohit Sharma and Rahul Dravid have backed him, that makes sense because they know that Virat Kohli, fully back in good form, will be extremely beneficial for the team’s success in the World Cup T20," he said.
"So, I think for the time being, as I said earlier, have a chat with Kohli, find some kind of a common part and then try and take it forward and make him feel as much as possible that he's such an essential player for India's success and take a call after the world cup T20 have another conversation with him and then decide how to take it forward.
"Because Kohli in the past several years has taken breaks at the right time. Although he remains an all three formats player for India. But the Indian team management has taken the right steps in order to assess his workload management and has given him the breaks at the right time," Karim explained.
It now remains to be seen when Kohli responds to the possibility of him playing in Zimbabwe.