Trial by fire: Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli are no longer sure-shot players in the national team

Welcome to Game Points, a newsletter on Indian sports by The Field.

Trial by fire: Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli are no longer sure-shot players in the national team

By Samreen Razzaqui

Two familiar faces returned to the Indian team, as the squad gets ready to play Afghanistan in their last bilateral series before the 2024 ICC Men’s Twenty20 World Cup in June.

Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli were named in the T20I squad after a year and this may just be their last World Cup. The two have not played a T20I match since India’s semi-final loss to England in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022.

It seemed like India had entered a stage of transition with new and explosive talent finding their place in the team. Hardik Pandya and Suryakumar Yadav seemed to have stepped up in the leadership role to replace the older guard. Indeed, the team was in a good place.

However, as of January, a big reason why Sharma has been recalled and appointed as captain for the Afghanistan series, set to begin on January 11, is that there remains a void in leadership with Pandya and Yadav both injured.

Riding on their solid performances in the ICC Men’s ODI World Cup, Sharma and Kohli’s inclusion does not seem to be a major point of discussion. But the prospect of several youngsters getting the axe because of this makes it a tricky decision.

Sharma, 36, is at the end of the road as captain of his Indian Premier League team, Mumbai Indians. As a batter, he has not had a 400-run+ season in the franchise tournament since 2013.

By contrast, 35-year-old Kohli has been extremely successful in the IPL, failing to breach the 400-run barrier only in three seasons. However, his strike rate is not particularly fear-inducing. In the 2023 edition, he touched 139.82, which is his best in the last four seasons.

The question remains whether the prowess of these veterans will be good enough in this fast-changing T20 format?

The two played key roles in taking India to the final in the ODI World Cup but the T20 format demands way more explosive batting. In the last few editions of the T20 World Cup, India’s conservative approach at the top of the order has been a point of discussion. As the team goes in with a similar formula to the upcoming edition, something needs to change.

With the likes of Ruturaj Gaikwad, Yashasvi Jaiswal and Shubman Gill making a case for themselves at the top of the order, the veterans must show that they are, in fact, needed.

Kohli and Sharma, who are likely being given the final shot for glory, will know that they will have to essentially earn their spot with their performances against Afghanistan.

Their experience in an ICC event will be needed, but with the clock ticking and the demands of the modern game changing, they have a point to prove in the three-match series that begins this week.

Fun Fact of the week: This week will mark the start of the 18th edition of the AFC Asian Cup – the prime continental international football competition. The tournament was first hosted in 1956. Japan is the most successful team in the competition with four titles and a runner-up finish. Iran and Saudi Arabia follow closely with three titles apiece. The upcoming edition will be India’s fifth appearance at the AFC Asian Cup, with their best display being a runner-up finish achieved way back in 1964.

Here's a recap of the top stories from this past week

Write a comment ...

Write a comment ...

Game Points by The Field

In the vast canvas of Indian sports, The Field provides a micro-level view across Olympic disciplines. It's not just the Games every four years that matter, every day, every month, every year does. Click the "Follow" button to receive our newsletter directly in your inbox.