Kohli likely to continue as opener in Nagpur

On him opening, Kohli had said "If Rohit was in the side, there would be no question and he would be opening with (K.L.) Rahul. It’s more of providing balance to the side."

Virat Kohli is likely to fill in as an opener again for the injured Rohit Sharma.   -  PTI

When Virat Kohli walked out to open India’s innings at the Green Park stadium in Kanpur on Thursday night, many would have felt it was a stark example of the captain wanting to lead from the front. Some Kohli sceptics – there still are some – may have felt Kohli wanted to continue his record-breaking run while opening for his Indian Premier League franchise in the 2016 edition.

Theories aside, the biggest reason for Kohli opening the innings was to fill in for enigmatic Rohit Sharma, still recovering after the thigh surgery he suffered during the ODI series against New Zealand last October. With Sharma being sidelined, Kohli along with the team think-tank thought it was best to promote the batsman on-song to open instead of trying out a new opener and thus tinkering with the team combination.

Kohli, the captain, had no hesitation in admitting it as well. “There was no special strategy. Some were expecting that I would open because it added more balance to the squad. You can play another batsman in the middle order, like Suresh Raina at No. 3,” Kohli said after India’s tame loss in the opening T20I against England. “If Rohit was in the side, there would be no question and he would be opening with (K.L.) Rahul. It’s more of providing balance to the side.” he added.

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If India had to draft in rookie Rishabh Pant at the top of the order, it would have resulted in Manish Pandey maintaining his streak of warming the bench. However, with Pandey deserving a decent run in the side after failing to make the cut in the three ODIs, Kohli had to move up the order.

“I have no urge to open. I can play at No. 3 as well, I have (batted) at No. 3 for India for a long time. I can play anywhere the management thinks is the best for the team,” Kohli said.

“This is just a case of Rohit not being there and because I have opened in IPL and I have a fair idea of it. It was about adding balance to the side and making another guy play instead of pushing another guy to open who doesn’t have experience there. That would be unfair on him.”

Sharma and Kohli’s bond aside, Kohli’s move also is much-required considering the lull at the top for his team in the shorter format. Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane didn’t click at all in the one-dayers. And with the latter two being omitted from T20s, the team is naturally missing a solid batsman like Sharma at the top of the order.

Sharma may not have lived up to his billing in Test cricket yet but the Mumbai batsman’s exploits in the limited formats have reached greater heights ever since he was promoted to open the batting four overs ago.

More than shielding Sharma, Kohli would be hoping to fire at Jamtha on Sunday night to keep the T20I series alive.

Stats

Kohli as opener in T20s

Kohli has so far opened thrice in T20Is, scoring 127 runs at 42.33, with strike rate of 147.87. His best while opening the batting is 70, against New Zealand in September 2012.

Kohli has aggregated 1,511 runs from 36 innings for Royal Challengers Bangalore in IPL, at an average of 58.11 and strike rate of 142.14.

Kohli had a stupendous run at the top of the order in IPL 2016, scoring a whopping 973 runs (average 81.08, strike rate 152.07), including four hundreds and seven fifties.