T20 WC: Can Rohit-Kohli opening pair click together against Bangladesh?

Tinkering of the top order by leaving Yashasvi Jaiswal out looks ill-advised

Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli during T20 World Cup (photo: @ICC/X)
Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli during T20 World Cup (photo: @ICC/X)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – it’s one of the most popular cliches of life. The Indian team management did precisely that by forging an opening combination of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli at the eleventh hour before the ongoing T20 World Cup and truth be told, the Big Two remains a source of worry as the Men in Blue look poised to at least make the semi-finals.

The vibes in their dressing room look positive as the team has maintained a clean sheet so far, emphatically beating the potentially dangerous Afghanistan by 47 runs in their first Super Eight game and looking strong favourites in the Bangladesh game tonight. Nothing can be taken for granted in this format but with top two teams from each of the four-team groups making up the semi-final line-up, Rohit Sharma’s men are among the odds-on favourites to reach that far.

However, if there is a sore point in their performance review so far which can make a difference in the high-pressure knockout games, it’s a fact that the two giants of white ball cricket have failed to gell as the new-look opening combination. The star system in Indian cricket means that not too many are pointing their fingers at it and are focusing instead on how the likes of Ravindra Jadeja or Shivam Dube are not delivering, but the two with 8000-plus T20I runs between them are guilty of the same offence.

Yes, it can be argued that it will need just one profitable powerplay for the two icons to click together – and it could well happen tonight – but the fact remains that they have looked misfits as the opening pair so far. While the spotlight had been more on Kohli’s poor sequence of scores, what with the captain scraping together a half-century on a challenging wicket against Ireland in their opener, but it’s certainly time to ponder over the returns from their first wicket partnership so far: 11, 22, 12 and one against Afghanistan.

The way the Big Two struggled to get going against Afghan attack was there for all to see and but for a counterattacking half-century by Suryakumar Yadav and support from Hardik Pandya, things could have gone south for the 2007 champions. Rohit kept on mistiming his big shots while Kohli scored a run-a-ball 24, giving an impression that the Barbados wicket was a tough one to bat on.

Ironical as it may sound, the Indian innings picked up pace only after the big guns left to reach a par score of 181 – something which they can ill afford against Australia on 24 June or the likes of England or South Africa thereafter. This is where the wisdom of propping up Kohli, a customary No.3 in white ball cricket all his life, at the expense of young Yashasvi Jaiswal staying in the dugout needs to be questioned.

What was then the thinking behind the new opening pair? If one possibility is that the team management was impressed with Kohli’s awesome form as an opener in the IPL where he won the Orange Cap with 740 runs, the other argument is it would have been tricky for them to fit in Kohli lower down the order. While Rishabh Pant has acquitted himself brilliantly as the new No.3 and SKY gradually hitting the groove, there is not much sense in rejigging the line-up so late in the day.  

It's a tricky situation that India find itself in now. Bringing in Jaiswal at this point could only be setting him up for failure and hence, the quiet prayer on their fans’ lips will be hoping that the veterans fire together!

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