Former India captain Virat Kohli silenced his critics with his 71st international century that world cricket waited for 1019 days. Hitting an unbeaten 122 off 61 balls in his maiden T20I ton, Kohli resumed normalcy in style as he led India to an emphatic 101-run win against Afghanistan in their final Asia Cup 2022 match on Thursday. While for most it was the biggest positive for the Indian team in an otherwise forgettable Asia Cup tournament in the UAE as the side continues to gear up for the T20 World Cup in October, for few, the knock sparked a debate on whether the India batter should continue to open for the team in T20Is. And India legends Sunil Gavaskar and Harbhajan Singh gave their verdict on the same.
KL Rahul has been India’s mainstay opener in the T20I cricket, with his combination with captain Rohit Sharma at the top of the order backed by many. But the batter, who only earlier last month made a return to cricket after a long injury lay-off, had a rather dismal Asia Cup outing. On the other hand, Kohli has made an impressive return to form after a month’s break, scoring two fifties and a hundred to go top of the run-scoring chart in the tournament.
On Thursday, Kohli had opened with Rahul as Rohit was rested from the inconsequential tie against Afghanistan and the former captain showed signs of his vintage self as he shattered a plethora of records with his unbeaten knock. Rahul too played a decent knock with his 41-ball 62 as the pair was involved in a century opening stand.
Speaking to India Today after the match, Harbhajan sided with the notion opining that Kohli had done the job previously for Royal Challengers Bangalore in IPL.
“He has opening his innings even in franchise cricket, even for RCB while he was captaining. When he opened the innings for RCB, he scored 921 runs in one season. So this role is not new to him, he sort of likes that spot,” Harbhajan said.
“Indian team needs to see what they need to do going forward whether they want to have a combo of Virat Kohli and Rohit starting the innings and KL bat at No. 3. The management needs to decide whether this can be plan B of plan A. For me, Virat is a top, top player, no doubt about it. So are KL Rahul and Rohit,” he added.
“Yeah, Virat opening would be a brilliant idea, going forward. But I am not sure if Rahul will stick with that.”
Gavaskar, however, feels that the 33-year-old can be rather considered as a third opener for India after Rahul and Rohit for the T20 World Cup.
“Well, I think he certainly gives an option. He has open the batting for India against England a couple of years back, if I recall correctly. He and Rohit Sharma opened the batting against England. He has opened for India.
“He now gives an extra option which means that if you are looking to pick a squad for the T20 World Cup, he can be considered as the 3rd opener after Rahul and Rohit Sharma. So you can maybe look to include another batter or whoever the selection committee thinks would be an ideal fit.
“With this innings, he has given an extra option to the coach, captain and the selection committee,” Gavaskar said.