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A struggling Rohit's snub could lead India to their best XI

Last updated on 16 Jan 2024 | 10:36 AM
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A struggling Rohit's snub could lead India to their best XI

‘RO’ fans, please look away, the struggle is real for Rohit Sharma

What is more agonizing than watching a favorable team or a sportsperson flounder? Myself, a Tiffosi (a Ferrari fan), cannot bear the thought that Ferrari hasn't produced a single championship driver since 2008. There are so many Manchester United fans whom I know feel the same pain. 

Rohit Sharma fans will also be experiencing the same pain. It has been long since Rohit made a statement in the shortest format through his knock. Let it be in internationals or the Indian Premier League. There was a time when the Mumbaikar used to get 100s in T20Is for fun. Now, that seems to be only a dream.

Rohit returned to the T20I setup after 14 months. His last T20I prior to the first against Afghanistan was the semi-final of the T20 World Cup 2022 against England. With a good run in the ODI WC 2023, the thought was he would emulate what he did in the main event. But his fortunes in T20s haven't changed a bit. 

To be precise, the two T20Is have rubbed salt in his wound. With no international T20s till the 2024 WC in June and plenty of openers in the mix, Rohit needed a good series against the Afghans. Across the two matches, however, he has faced just three balls and has been dismissed for a duck in both. Well!! Talk about lousy luck riding one's back. 

Some might say it is harsh to conclude based on the evidence of these two matches. To an extent, it might be true, as Rohit was run out in the first match because of his partner's fault (Shubman Gill). However, keeping these two games aside, post the 2022 WC, Rohit has done nothing to put his name above Yashasvi Jaiswal, Ruturaj Gaikwad, or even Gill as India's first-choice opener. 

Post the 2022 World Cup, Rohit has played 18 T20s and averages just above 18. Though he has a reasonable strike rate of 131.2, the other three openers, Jaiswal (160.2), Gill (154.9), and Gaikwad (152.2) have even better numbers while averaging 40+ each. 

Among India’s top seven batters who have scored 300+ runs in all T20s post the 2022 WC, only Deepak Hooda has a lower average than Rohit. But none has more ducks (4) than the current Indian skipper. 

In those 18 innings, Rohit survived throughout the powerplay in only five innings. This means he has a 72.2% chance of getting dismissed inside the powerplay. This is more and more concerning for India and Rohit. The direct results of his poor show in the powerplay have led to low scores. 

Rohit's 50% of the innings have been single-digit scores, out of which four are ducks. Additionally, he has five scores between 10 and 29, two scores between 30 and 49, and two 50+ scores. 

With Rohit in a state of bother, his spot in the XI is in jeopardy, and Jaiswal's opening partner slot is vacant. To everyone's surprise, another batter who returned to T20Is after 14 months may acquire that. That's right, Virat Kohli is the perfect candidate for the other opening spot. 

Kohli as an opener?????

If Kohli finds himself in the WC squad, then he becomes undroppable. In this situation, him batting at number three might see Rinku Singh and Shivam Dube exit, which would be ridiculous considering their form. In terms of combination, Kohli opening the innings can be a boon. 

Before we get to that, does Kohli have better credentials than Rohit as an opener in recent times? Can he go hand in hand with Jaiswal's aggression? The answer to that is a definite yes. 

Post the 2022 WC, Kohli has played three fewer (14) innings as an opener than Rohit (17) and has scored 300 more runs. He averages 53.25 while striking at 139.8. Meanwhile, Rohit, as an opener, averages 19.5 and has a strike rate of 132.8. 

While there isn't a stark difference in the overall strike rate, Kohli has a sheer advantage against the pacers across all phases. As an opener, Kohli has 400+ runs at an average of 57.3 and a strike rate of 163.01 against the pacers compared to Rohit's 20.8 and 128.4. Even in the first six overs, Kohli has an overwhelming upper hand over Rohit against the pacers. While the Mumbaikar averages only 16.7 with a strike rate of 121.9, Kohli averages 68.7 while scoring at 146.1. 

It is a well-known fact that the spin department is not Kohli's strongest suit, which is more the reason why Kohli should open. Rohit (140.9) has a massive advantage regarding the strike rate against spinners (overall) compared to Kohli (112.8). 

It is a contrasting tale of strike rates for the two legendary batters. Kohli has a formidable strike rate advantage against the pacers and Rohit against the spinners. But the catch here is that Rohit has four dismissals in the middle overs (7-15) in five innings, and all have been to spinners. His strike rate also drops from 159.5 in powerplay to 123.9 in overs 7-15 against the tweakers. 

Can Kohli match Jaiswal's intent?

In the first T20I, Kohli, batting with Jaiswal for the first time in T20s, showed he has the wild intent that matches Jaiswal. In fact, among Indian openers who have scored 400+ runs in T20Is, Jaiswal's strike rate of 163.8 is the highest, and guess what? Kohli's 161.3 is the second-best. 

The best part about these two opening the innings is that they can compensate each other. When a spinner is on, Jaiswal could take the attack against the spinner, as he has a whopping strike rate of 181.5. When pacers are bowling, both of them can attack. Even if Jaiswal falls after the powerplay, Kohli will be in the company of Suryakumar Yadav, who has a strike rate of 151 against spinners in the middle overs.

India will possibly have the best combination if Kohli opens  

Two things are buzzing in India. One is Ayodhya Ram Mandir, and the other is India's combination for the 2024 T20WC. With so many players putting their hands up in the past two months, India have a selection headache. 

However, that can be solved if Kohli opens alongside Jaiswal. Both Dube and Rinku can feature in the XI if this happens. India will have a bating depth till eight with six bowling options and a perfect mix of right and left-handed batters. As Jasprit Bumrah is a constant in the XI among bowlers, the second pacer could be Mohammed Siraj or Arshdeep Singh.

This is the best possible XI that India can field amidst the chaos. However, it all depends on India's selection process. If they prioritize reputation over talent, many performing players will miss out. 

No hard feelings here, but it’s time to move on.

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