Kohli and Rohit in the T20 Squad had an Air of Inevitability

Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma during the ICC World Cup 2023 (Image: Debasis Sen for RevSportz)

On November 28, I had written for RevSportz that it was impossible to imagine a T20 World Cup team without Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. And my argument was purely on the basis of performance. Given the form Kohli has been in – he was the best batter at the T20 World Cup in 2022, and World Cup 2023 – it was tough to see him being overlooked. Shouldn’t performance be the only index? Isn’t age just a number with sports science making incredible advances? Isn’t Kohli still one of the best fielders in the team? So, why leave him out?

Coming to Rohit, the very same argument holds true. He was brilliant at the top of the order in the 50-over World Cup, and his starts were more T20 efforts than anything. And that’s the kind of selflessness that we need in the T20 World Cup from the Indian skipper. We need him to go after the bowling and change the way India approached the format in the 2022 World Cup. Against England in the semi-final in Adelaide, India were limp. And that’s what Rohit looked to change in the recently concluded World Cup.

There is an argument floating around that they could still be dropped from the T20 World Cup squad, and that this is a team just for the Afghanistan series. Yes, if they don’t score at all in the IPL, such an argument could gather steam. But if they do, and if yet again brings us back to performance, it is impossible to see both of them not being picked. While there can’t be a sense of entitlement, it is equally true that you can’t just drop someone for the sake of it. Players need to be able to play better than them and push them out. So far, at least, we haven’t seen anyone do so.

There is another argument about combination. As in, if both Rohit and Kohli play, how can Ishan Kishan be accommodated? Now, that is ridiculous, to say the least. The best 11, and only the best 11, needs to be accommodated, and no one else. If Kishan is one of them, then certainly yes. There could be no other parameter for selection.

Also, it is almost essential for the BCCI and the ICC to have Rohit and Kohli in the mix for a tournament in the USA. Without these two names, the competition would lose a lot of its sheen. Brand Rohit is as important to the ICC, and chances are the BCCI would want Rohit to play if he is in form. From Rohit’s standpoint, it makes sense to take a break from the 50-over game if he wants to. He will not be around for the 2027 World Cup and, if anything, the physical rigours of the 50-over game are far more than T20 cricket. So, if he needs to take a break, there is every likelihood of Rohit opting out from the 50-over format.

With Kohli too, if he needs to opt out, he could very well give bilateral 50-over contests a miss. Such contests, especially in the next two years, will have little relevance with the next World Cup so far away. Kohli, as it is with every athlete, might just want to play the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028, fitness permitting. And in such a scenario, he’d want to continue playing the format in the foreseeable future. From an Indian standpoint, the team needs Kohli. He is a livewire on the field and is still one of the best batters in the world. So why would he want to give up on a format which has a World Cup in six months’ time? And why would the BCCI not want its best-known face to be a part of the team?

Finally, imagining a North American World Cup without Kohli just doesn’t work. He is, by a distance, cricket’s biggest brand, and the ICC would be desperate to have him in the mix to market the event.

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