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The Asia Cup may make or break Kohli

The team management also has to decide whether to play spinner Ashwin when you have Jadeja and Chahal in the line-up

August 27, 2022 / 01:46 PM IST
File image of Rohit Sharma (left) and Virat Kohli during an IPL match

File image of Rohit Sharma (left) and Virat Kohli during an IPL match

Virat Kohli led India for the last time in T20 internationals at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium last October,  venue for the ICC Cricket World Cup.

At the end of that tournament, where India did not qualify for the semis, he was replaced by Rohit Sharma, first as T20 captain and subsequently the all-format captain. Kohli was axed as the ODI captain, and resigned from Test captaincy at the end of the South Africa tour.

Kohli, and Team India, are back at the venue in one of the most popular and attractive cities of the world, Dubai.

Expectations abound around Kohli. That he will come out of his lean patch and make runs at the top of the order, not only helping India defend its title at the 15th  Asia Cup starting on Saturday, but also playing a crucial role in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia in October-November. Else, his place in the World Cup may be questioned.

Kohli has returned to the Indian team after taking a break from international cricket following a dismal tour of England.

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As he becomes the 14th in the world, and the second Indian, to appear in more than 100 T20Is when India takes on Pakistan on Sunday, there could not be a better stage than this for Kohli to demonstrate that he is indispensable in this format.,

Kohli will join his former Royal Challengers Bangalore team-mate, New Zealand’s Ross Taylor (112 Tests, 236 ODIs, 102 T20Is), as only the second player to appear in 100 or more international matches in all three formats.

Also, the elusive T20I hundred for Kohli may be achieved in this tournament, adding to his 70 international centuries, the last of which was almost three years back.

Kohli’s return to T20 will force some changes on the Indian team, which has been on a tear over the last year or so under the captaincy of Sharma, and temporary skipper Hardik Pandya. Under them, India has not lost any T20I series. It has won 19 matches, lost only four, while one was abandoned without a result.

Also making a return to the T20Is is vice-captain K. L. Rahul, an opener.

Deepak Hooda, who has proved himself with both bat and ball, could not make it to the playing 11 due to the return of Kohli and Rahul.

While Rishabh Pant is certain to keep wickets, the team thinktank cannot keep ‘finisher’ Dinesh Karthik out of the 11, especially after selecting him at this advanced stage of his career.

Sharma and interim coach VVS Laxman also have to decide whether to play off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin when you have Ravindra Jadeja, and India’s most successful T20I bowler Yuzvendra Chahal, in the line-up. Ravi Bishnoi, another young leg-spinner, is waiting in the wings.

India is the hot favourite at the Asia Cup and should sail into the Super Four along with Pakistan, the top contender from Group A. They will be joined by Hong Kong, who beat local side UAE, Kuwait and Singapore in the qualifying tournament played in Oman.

The Asia Cup could see three India-Pakistan matches if the teams make it to the Super Four and the finals.

Group B, with Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh, is the tougher one. Any two among them can make it to the Super Four. However, Afghanistan is currently the favourite because of its form.

Hosts Sri Lanka (the tournament shifted to the UAE due to the crisis in the island nation) have a good track record with five title wins, next to India’s seven.

Saturday’s opener, between Afghanistan and Sri Lanka will set the ball rolling.
Guru Krishnan
first published: Aug 27, 2022 01:46 pm
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