T20 World Cup: Should India’s Virat Kohli return to old approach for final after lack of runs? | Cricket News

One India opener is in prime form at this year’s T20 World Cup. The other very much isn’t.

While Rohit Sharma has struck 248 runs – 92 of them from 41 balls in a cavalier innings against Australia – at an average north of 40, Virat Kohli has mustered just 75 at an average south of 11.

Rohit has racked up three half-centuries in seven knocks. Kohli two ducks and just two double-figure scores in his seven.

The aggressive brand of cricket India have adopted since a meek T20 World Cup semi-final defeat to England in Adelaide in 2022 – a result they avenged in Guyana on Thursday to reach the 2024 final – has been instigated by Rohit and he is thriving while playing it.

Kohli not so much.

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Kohli nicked off for a golden duck against USA in the first round of the T20 World Cup

Rohit was quick to praise Kohli’s “intent” after his run-a-ball nine against England – six runs of which came off one delivery when he launched Reece Topley for a gorgeous six over wide long-on.

Kohli may be following the team mantra, then, but is that to the detriment of his own game?

Take out that sublime six and Kohli’s innings was highly skittish.

He charged down the pitch to Topley second ball and swiped at fresh air. He was beaten by Jofra Archer’s fifth delivery attempting a booming drive outside off stump.

India's Virat Kohli reacts after being dismissed against Pakistan (Associated Press)
This year’s T20 World Cup has been a tough slog for Kohli

The ball before Kohli got out, he scuffed Topley into the off-side for two off a thick leading edge. The next delivery he was castled leg stump heaving across the line. Off he trotted. Frustrated. Angry.

This low knock followed a five-ball duck against Australia in which he perished looking to get off the mark with a boundary and was caught off Josh Hazlewood at deep midwicket.

“Surely he just has to bat normally? He is world class and has done it for a very long time,” said Sky Sports‘ Nasser Hussain following Kohli’s aforementioned wild waft against Archer.

“I couldn’t agree more,” added former India player and head coach Ravi Shastri. “Be the playmaker. Rohit is the one that will go after it.”

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Kohli was out for a duck against Australia as he looked to get off the mark with a boundary

‘This is not Kohli’s game, he is going too early’

Kohli entered the tournament as the all-time leading run-scorer in men’s T20 international cricket – he has since slipped to third on that list, behind Rohit and Pakistan’s Babar Azam – with 37 fifties and one ton along the way, against Afghanistan in September 2022.

His old style appeared to work and Shastri wants him to revert to it, saying on Star Sports after his dismissal against England: “This is not his game. He is going too early for it, especially with Rohit playing aggressively at the other end.

“He can make up quite easily once he spends a little more time at the crease. He is more orthodox. When he tries to get out of his zone, he will get out in that fashion.”

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Kohli holed out at long-off as he fell for 24 against Afghanistan

This debate is a familiar one for fans of English Test cricket, with Joe Root’s more aggressive streak under Bazball often called into question when he falls doing something funky, as he did in the Test series against India this winter when out on the reverse scoop.

Should one of your classiest players, with oodles of runs behind them over a number of years, be left to their own devices amid a dramatic shift in team mindset or tow the party line?

If Kohli adopted the “playmaker role” role Shastri referenced earlier, then India have the hitting around him to compensate: Rohit up top, Rishabh Pant at No 3, Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Shivam Dube, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel to follow.

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Take a look back at Kohli’s batting masterclass against Pakistan at the MCG during the 2022 T20 World Cup

Rohit pinpointed the “intent” and that is the big play here – to put pressure on the opposition immediately, to not let the bowlers settle. Rohit executed that to perfection against Australia when he took the third over, bowled by Mitchell Starc, for 29.

He could, perhaps fairly, argue that Kohli’s 28-ball 37 against Bangladesh was crucial in that 50-run victory, too, with his opening partner’s early runs putting India on top before he was bowled.

Intent is great but results matter and Kohli has been short of those.

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Kohli’s enterprising innings against Bangladesh ended when he was bowled by Tanzim Hasan.

His run-a-ball 24 against Afghanistan was the only other time he has passed nine. Blob against Australia. Blob against USA. Four against Pakistan. One against Ireland. Now nine against England.

India may not have needed peak Kohli to win eight from eight in this World Cup, such is their strength in depth in both batting and bowling, but they may do when they come up against fellow unbeaten outfit South Africa in Saturday’s final in Barbados.

“He is probably saving himself for [that game],” quipped Rohit as he gave Kohli a ringing endorsement after the win over England. “He is a quality player. Any player can go through [a lean patch].

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India captain Rohit Sharma is backing Kohli to perform at his very best in the T20 World Cup final against South Africa

“When you have played for 15 years, form is never a problem. We understand his class. We understand his importance in big games.”

India have undoubtedly changed for the better but perhaps, in this big game, Kohli should change back to what has brought him so much success in the past and be the playmaker.

Watch the T20 World Cup final between India and South Africa, at Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados, live on Sky Sports Cricket from 3pm on Saturday (3.30pm first ball).

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