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Time to pull the plug on Kohli’s T20I career

In the last couple of weeks, Virat Kohli the batsman has had the demeanour of a Netflix murderer living in constant expectation of his victim’s body being found. Such has been his nervy presence in the middle. The expressions after his dismissals have been even more telling: the rueful smile of a man who feels the world has conspired to go topsy-turvy on him that turns into an anguished look at the heavens at some point in his trudge back to the dug-out. A look of a man who seemingly feels he has been cooked, done in, and trapped by a fateful turn of events.

Even if he scores a brace of fifties from here on, the time has come for the national selectors to contemplate a halt on Kohli’s T20I career. Going by his recent decisions on captaincy, it won’t be a surprise if he himself pulls the plug on this format after the IPL, but in case he doesn’t, the selectors would do well to take that call. Former head coach Ravi Shastri, a mentor he trusts, has already said that Kohli needs a break for sure to prolong his career, and the selectors will do well to read between the lines.

On Tuesday, against Trent Boult, he could have gotten out at least three times before he was eventually dismissed. A hesitant poke that almost carried straight to short square-leg, two iffy cuts to not-so-short deliveries that nearly ricocheted onto his stumps and if one thought it was the luck he needed, he went too early into his pull shot against Prasidh Krishna and toe-ended a catch to point. On the positive side, he wasn’t late on that shot – that would have made one doubt his reflexes – but that’s a mere consolation.

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Kohli is in a fascinating position himself. Once, in his pomp, in a podcast with commentator Mark Nicholas, he spoke about how he views batting. “I see batting as 70% technical. I know a lot of people say 80% mental; from a preparation point of view, yes. But I believe… if your foundations aren’t strong, you can’t be mentally strong as you will have doubts about your own game. And you are fighting with yourself first rather than thinking of what I can do here.” The usual cricketers’ cliché is about how it’s 90% mental, but Kohli sees it differently.

That puts him in an interesting space right now. A cocktail of mental and technical stuff has had him reeling for a while now, not just this IPL but prior to that as well, and self-doubts creep into the best of the best. Add to it, so many eventful episodes have occurred in the not-so-distant past – from his tiffs with the BCCI over resignations and what not – no wonder Kohli has been wearing that look of self-pity-tinged ruefulness.

Even an in-form Kohli doesn’t fit India’s T20 plans

 

The fact that Kohli opened in the game against Rajasthan Royals might be good for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the coming days if he succeeds, but India certainly doesn’t need Kohli as the opener.

The assessment has nothing to do with his recent failures this season (though that has only exacerbated it, of course) but even otherwise he isn’t the best fit for India’s T20 team for the World Cup. There is a sameness in the top order that needs a more adventurous No.3 batsman. Even at his best, Kohli’s T20 blueprint is a touch anachronistic which still can be valuable in some other team; not India, though. A Kane Williamson figure for New Zealand, where he can anchor, and move around the middle overs, before turning on the heat in the end. It’s fair to say that it’s unlikely that any IPL franchise would bunch Rohit, Kohli, and KL Rahul together at the top; it’s time India also doesn’t. To fit in Kohli, India would have to make concessions elsewhere which aren’t optimum in terms of value to the team.

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When he started this IPL, the question was about how much more can he extend his T20 game to fit into the Indian team’s requirements. It was clear that he had to press the accelerator pretty early in his piece, take the lead in striking, and not just drag it to the end overs. With players like Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer (though he has considerably slipped up this season) and Dinesh Karthik, India needs a proactive No.3. For that, Kohli had to extend his T20 game and do something he hasn’t always done before. At least consistently. Source Link

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