Kolkata: Virat Kohli’s maiden T20I century where he scored 122 not out off 61 balls marked his resurgence to form and could not have come at a better time ahead of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup which is less than a month away.
Following his break from cricket, Virat had a brilliant Asia Cup where he emerged as the tournament’s second highest scorer and was in sublime touch. Virat’s sensational century against Afghanistan has sparked debates on whether ‘King Kohli’ can open the batting for team India ahead of the T20I series against Australia from September 20 to 25.
Speaking exclusively on Star Sports ‘Follow the Blues’, Gautam Gambhir and Mathew Hayden brushed away any argument that Virat Kohli would be opening the innings for Team India ahead of their T20I series against Australia and for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup which is less than a month away.
When asked about what his expectations of Virat Kohli are ahead of the series of important tournaments for Team India, Gambhir said “Exactly the same fluency what we saw in the Asia Cup. The only issue is, that when we saw him play that innings against Afghanistan it was at the top of the order. And in a T20 format there is a huge difference in playing in the first six and after the first six. And when you go into the middle without having any scoreboard pressure, suddenly when you’re one wicket down or probably will have to continue the momentum so that’s a different ball game, but runs under your belt or no runs under your belt, there is no better feeling that scoring a hundred. And Virat goes into the series with a lot of confidence and I hope he continues his form because he is going to be very useful if India has to play well in the world cup because it’s a very important position.”
Mathew Hayden spoke about how Virat Kohli would face the Australian bowling attack and shut down any discussion on Virat Kohli’s position in the team, “Virat, you know, he’s such a great player of fast bowling, and Australia’s full of fast bowling in their cricket team and they are relying heavily on Adam Zampa through the middle stages now. Pointers to take pace off the ball, Mitch Marsh as well, he’ll handle him nicely. And this great debate around Virat batting up, GG (Gambhir) and I have already had this over the last couple of days, there’s no way that he has to open the batting, he has to bat at number 3, simple as that.”
“And again, it’s another one of those things that you don’t want to let the door open the discussion on this. You don’t want to have a doubt, you don’t want to have KL Rahul in the masterful form that he’s been in of late and Rohit Sharma who is captain of the team thinking ‘I’ve got to kind of watch my spot here that you know I’m an opening batsmen and my job is to play with freedom’ and unfortunately, when you start having these debates and you start thinking ‘oh maybe he, for his game, it should be him opening’, I’m sure he wouldn’t want to entertain that and put pressure. The one thing that you want to alleviate in the World Cup is the pressure. Just let the batting order rely on its own form and Virat Kohli can handle the situation. He’s a world class player, he can bat at three and he should bat at three in my opinion,” Hayden said.
Gambhir was in full support Hayden’s argument and added, “That’s a very valid point, the moment someone starts doing very well, for example, if Virat Kohli has got a hundred in the last game, we all start forgetting about what KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma has done over such a long period of time. And suddenly when you start this debate about Virat Kohli opening the batting, imagine what happens to KL Rahul, you don’t want your top class players to be under pressure, especially someone like KL Rahul, who’s got probably more ability than Rohit Sharma or Virat Kohli. And we have seen that in international cricket and the IPL as well.”
“Think from India’s point of view and not from an individual’s point of view. So that’s why I think you (Hayden) made a very valid point that we as experts and broadcasters should start thinking about how India can flourish in the World Cup rather than certain individuals who particularly want to bat at a certain number,” Gambhir said.