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Rahul Dravid dilemma on Virat Kohli & KL Rahul

Head coach needs to make space for Dinesh Karthik
Rahul Dravid with KL Rahul
Rahul Dravid with KL Rahul
File Photo

Indranil Majumdar   |   Calcutta   |   Published 10.08.22, 03:25 AM

The 15-member squad for the Asia Cup, announced by the national selectors on Monday evening, has left several unanswered questions in its wake. The return of KL Rahul and Virat Kohli could force head coach Rahul Dravid to perform a tactical balancing act to accommodate both batting stalwarts in the top four.

While the squad is a fair indication of the cricketers who will be Australia-bound for the T20 World Cup in October-November, a few spots will still invite competition keeping the varying conditions in mind. Jasprit Bumrah is expected to return but Harshal Patel’s fitness is under a cloud. How well Patel responds to the rehabilitation process at the National Cricket Academy will determine his chances. The batting combination will be the most debated upon. Several of the newcomers have responded well to Team India’s new attacking ploy.

The change in attitude was reflected in an improved strike-rate for most of the batters. Since the debacle in the T20 World Cup last year, India’s Powerplay approach has seen a significant switch, with batters willing to take risks at the cost of wickets, resulting in an average run-rate of 8.82.

Rohit has made it clear that he is ready to take the plunge even if it means losing some matches. It has shown in his improved strike-rate of 147.82 in the Powerplays this year. This includes a significant jump to 153.60 since the England series in July. Kohli’s indifferent form this season will always raise questions about his place in the XI. The former captain has played only four T20Is this year, scoring 81 runs at a strike-rate of 128.57.

Rahul is yet to feature in a T20I this year. Rohit and Suryakumar Yadav are the automatic choices among the top-four. But if both Rahul and Kohli have to be included, it will mean no place for Dinesh Karthik since Rishabh Pant is the No.1 wicketkeeper. Promoted as a finisher in the team, Karthik hasn’t fared badly at No.7 since his return to the side — a total of 192 runs across 13 innings at a strike-rate of 133.33.

Karthik has played defining knocks in three of those innings. He has been successful against pace and the Australian surfaces might just help his cause. Can the team management ignore Karthik’s claims in case he comes up with a couple of match-winning knocks in the Asia Cup?

If India pick four specialist bowlers along with Karthik and Pandya, it would be perfect to include someone like Deepak Hooda, who can provide the sixth bowler’s option. That would mean only one among Kohli and Rahul would be in the XI. But would Dravid and Rohit show the courage to drop Kohli? Unless Kohli rekindles his form, Dravid will have to choose between the former captain and Karthik. The team management needs to make some tough calls.



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