Hype Around Kohli Could Help Others Perform At Their Peak In The Clash Of Arch-Rivals

Dubai: A lot of hype has been built around Virat Kohli ahead of the big-ticket ‘Super 12’ game against Pakistan in the ICC T20 World Cup later on Sunday, given that the skipper will relinquish his T20 captaincy after the mega-event.

It could be a blessing in disguise for the other players in the team, especially the likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Ravichandran Ashwin and Rohit Sharma, to go about their task in a cool and calculated manner in the high-pressure game, with the spotlight firmly on their skipper.

With Kohli deciding to relinquish T20I captaincy and coach Ravi Shastri’s term set to end, India will be hoping to ride on an all-round performance later on Sunday against Pakistan to begin their title quest on a winning note.

Ranked No.2 on the T20I Team Rankings behind England, and with plenty of experience playing in UAE conditions, India are one of the favourites to claim the title. They’ve dominated world cricket in all formats in the past few years, built formidable depth, and excelled at home and overseas.

Yet, they haven’t won a global tournament since the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy, falling in knockout games at every event. India’s last success in the T20 World Cup came in the inaugural edition in 2007 when they defeated Pakistan to win the title.

Kohli says that more than the ICC trophies and title, it’s the cricketing culture his side has created over the last 5-6 years, which is important.

“What we’ve been able to create in the last five-six years is beyond titles and tournaments,” Kohli said in an ICC interaction on Saturday.

“We’ve been able to create a culture which is going to last a long time, where people want to be the best they can be when they enter the Indian cricket team, the fittest they can be. That culture we’ve driven with utmost passion and utmost honesty, which we hope will continue to be the case in years to come,” said the India captain.

The duo of Kohli and Shastri might certainly have created a cricketing culture, but the absence of ICC trophies in the cupboard remains their bane. While Kohli can take solace in his accomplishments, a trophy before he steps down from T20I captaincy next month will be especially sweet — and a strong response to his critics.

India’s batting is a mix of youth and experience and the challenge would be to identify the right mix to ensure a winning start. Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul are expected to open the batting, with the latter given the task to play more expansive cricket than he tends to do in the Indian Premier League. Besides, the presence of Ishan Kishan in the squad as back-up opener also gives India a left-hand option.

Kohli, meanwhile, is expected to bat at No.3, while the middle-order slots are likely to be filled up by Suryakumar Yadav, Kishan, wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja and Shardul Thakur.

India’s spin attack is also looking formidable with the return of Ashwin for the first time since 2017, and with Ravindra Jadeja bowling his left-arm spin and Varun Chakravarthy being their mystery spinner, things look quite encouraging for the 2007 T20 World champions.

While Jasprit Bumrah will lead the pace attack, it remains to be seen who will pair him, with concerns over Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s form and fitness, but the seam bowler has got a vote of confidence from Kohli.

“His (Bhuvi’s) economy rates still continue to be top notch, something that he’s always been known for, and his experience comes to the fore under pressure,” said Kohli. Besides, Mohammed Shami, has proved himself time and again with his miserly death-over spells.

Having played all of IPL 2020 and half of IPL 2021 in the UAE, the Indians would have familiarised themselves with the conditions, and the two warm-up victories — against England and Australia — would have given them the confidence to go all out.

The squads

Virat Kohli (c), Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ishan Kishan (wk), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Rahul Chahar, Ravichandran Ashwin, Varun Chakravarthy, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami, Shardul Thakur.

Pakistan (Shortlisted 12): Babar Azam (captain), Shadab Khan (vice-captain), Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shoaib Malik.