After opening with KL Rahul against Pakistan, Rohit Sharma left his opening position for Ishan Kishan, who replaced Suryakumar Yadav for the New Zealand game, and batted at No.3 with Kohli batting at No.4. It was understandable that Ishan Kishan was most suited for the opening role, as his record suggests, but Mumbai Indians coach Mahela Jayawardene found that baffling.
"You can be flexible. But not with your top-three batters. I think most teams if you take, you don't have too much flexibility in that top three. They are settled. They are the ones who are going to give you that initial tempo, who are going to go about things. And then you have that guy at No. 3 who is going to glue things together and bat in both halves of the innings and the rest of the guys are the ones who will probably get floated in and around," Jayawardene told ESPN Cricinfo.
"That's his role he plays in T20 cricket and Virat Kohli is either an opener or No. 3. I think KL Rahul would have been able to play that No. 4 role because he has that ability to change and adapt. In an ideal scenario, if India had a good start and had a settled thing, even Rishabh Pant could have batted No. 4 - given they [New Zealand] had a left-arm spinner [Mitchell Santner] and a legspinner [Ish Sodhi], he would have got more license to then play knowing that he had two-three batters behind him.
"So rather than making all those changes they should have done just that subtle change - one in, one out - and then maybe one batter changing positions, rather than three batters changing their slots, would have made a bit more sense. Especially going against a very good New Zealand new-ball attack because it was always going to do a little bit in those three-four overs."
Losing two games in a row, India have found themselves at the brink of elimination with Pakistan and New Zealand are at the pole position to qualify for the semis. However, Jayawardene is not ready to close down the thoughts that India might stage a comeback.
"They still have an opportunity. Anything can happen. And if they sneak through to those semi-final spots they are a force to reckon with. But if they don't have a successful T20 World Cup, there's another one coming pretty soon [in Australia in late 2022] and obviously, it's an opportunity for them to look at some of the other options that they have.
"We see a lot of young Indian players coming through, we've seen it in the IPL as well, in the big stage, playing with fearlessness. They bat just the situation, they don't bat anything other than that. So that's something you need in T20 cricket. Bit of experience and bit of fearlessness to guide you through those tough situations."
India will lock horns with Afghanistan at Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.