Why India still needs Virat Kohli for the T20 World Cup 2024

Virat Kohli’s run volume isn’t an issue in T20 cricket, but India hopes he scores faster and more effectively in the 2024 T20 World Cup.

Why India still needs Virat Kohli for the T20 World Cup 2024 f

"it’s just about winning the game for the team."

India announced their squad for the 2024 T20 World Cup and among the names is Virat Kohli.

For a few years, Kohli’s approach to T20 cricket has been questionable but he now finds himself in another World Cup squad.

The trade-off is that it leaves India short of a genuine finisher in the starting 11.

India’s approach to T20Is has historically mirrored its ODI strategy, prioritising wickets over boundaries.

There have been signs that the attitude is shifting but maybe at a slow pace.

Virat Kohli has high averages and his strike rates tend to increase as the innings go deeper.

Over the past five years, Kohli’s T20I strike rate is just below 140, coupled with an average exceeding 53.

However, his performance for Royal Challengers Bangalore tells a different story, with an average of less than 40 (specifically 35.07) and a considerably slower strike rate, staying under 130 within the same period.

Looking at what Kohli has been doing in the PowerPlay and the overs after, the picture becomes clearer.

Over the past five years playing for India, Kohli initially starts his innings at a relatively slow pace, with a strike rate of 111.28.

However, between the 7th and 16th overs, he ramps it up to 128.

When he stays until the last four overs, his strike rate soars to over 213, indicating his ability to dominate bowlers towards the end of the innings.

In the IPL during the same timeframe, Kohli’s strike rates across different phases are – 129.69 in the PowerPlay, 116.61 in the middle overs, and an impressive 206.50 in the death overs.

Over the past two years, Kohli has consistently maintained an overall strike rate in the early 130s while batting at number 3 for India in T20Is.

Comparatively, the average strike rates for number 3 batsmen from teams like South Africa, Australia and West Indies exceed 150.

On the other hand, the combined strike rates of number 3 batsmen from teams like England, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are lower.

With that said, we look at why India still needs Virat Kohli for the 2024 T20 World Cup.

Will he be India’s Achilles Heel?

Why India still needs Virat Kohli for the T20 World Cup 2024

In the 2024 IPL, Virat Kohli is scoring at a strike rate of 147.

Only once has he ever scored quicker and that was in 2016.

Kohli scored his eighth IPL century against Rajasthan Royals, with his 113 not out against the team being his joint-highest in the T20 league.

However, it took 67 balls to get there, making it the joint-slowest hundred in the IPL, along with Manish Pandey’s century against the now-defunct Deccan Chargers in 2009.

Kohli’s performance in Jaipur encapsulated his T20 batting style perfectly.

Initially, his strike rate was below 130 for the first 25 balls, but in the following 25 balls, it surged to 156.

However, what truly showcases his prowess is his remarkable strike rate of 190 in the last 22 balls he faced.

Kohli is most destructive in the latter overs, particularly between overs 17 and 20, highlighting his excellence as a T20 batter.

However, Virat Kohli has also seemed to embrace a less risky approach when batting inside the first six overs in the 2024 IPL.

After his century against the Rajasthan Royals, Kohli said:

“They probably want me to come hard at them so they can get me out or have an early breakthrough.”

“But I feel like if I’m set and if I bat beyond six overs, then our chance of getting good totals becomes that much better.”

Kohli is a traditional top-order batsman who has frequently sought to add aggression to his game when the fast-paced nature of T20 cricket requires it. India now has numerous alternatives in this role.

Kohli’s affinity for facing fast bowling contributes to his success in the death overs, typically when opponents rely on their quick bowlers.

The star loves pace on the ball, which partly explains why he is so good in the latter overs, a phase where opposition captains normally turn to their faster bowlers.

But lately, Virat Kohli has struggled to maintain his momentum outside the PowerPlay, especially against spin bowlers.

This has made him susceptible to retaining strikes from more explosive players who excel in this phase.

Consequently, his ability to influence the game greatly depends on his survival during the PowerPlay and middle overs, which can place extra pressure on his teammates.

This formulaic approach can become quite predictable and therefore susceptible to exploitation.

ICC Specialist

Why India still needs Virat Kohli for the T20 World Cup 2024 2

That being said, the top four comprising captain Rohit Sharma, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav were more or less confirmed even before the official squad announcement was made.

The selectors and Rohit Sharma are taking a gamble on Kohli’s ability to handle pressure situations.

Kohli has consistently demonstrated a strong temperament in crucial matches.

While he respects his opponents, he doesn’t let their stature intimidate him.

This quality is particularly vital in high-stakes tournaments where nerves can easily take over players.

A notable instance of Kohli’s composure was witnessed during the 2022 T20 World Cup chase against Pakistan at a packed MCG in Australia.

Kohli’s strike rate during the late overs that night was 278.57 as he breezed to 39 off just 14 balls.

However, it’s worth noting that at one point, Kohli was batting on 12 off 21 balls.

Remarkably, his average in nine successful run chases at the T20 World Cup stands at an unbelievable 518, featuring seven half-centuries and being dismissed only once.

Previously, India lacked the hitting depth of other T20I sides, making it hard for the main batters to be very aggressive.

Moreover, in the early 2000s, India’s top five players also made significant contributions with the ball.

However, the current main batters don’t offer the same level of bowling, leading to pressure on the team management to include a frontline spinner at number seven.

This requires the top order to be more careful and restrained in its approach.

Nevertheless, this concern seems to have taken a backseat thanks to Rinku Singh, Suryakumar, Sanju Samson and Shivam Dube.

It should ease some of the pressure on Kohli. Although there’s a valid argument that apart from the reliable Jasprit Bumrah, India’s bowling appears somewhat unstable, emphasising the importance for Rohit Sharma’s team to win the boundary percentage battle.

Kohli is certainly aware of this aspect.

He recently brushed off criticism regarding his strike rate against spin after his match-winning 70 not out off 44 balls against Gujarat Titans in Ahmedabad.

Kohli said: “All the people who talk about strike rates and me not playing spin well are the ones who love talking about this stuff.

“But for me, it’s just about winning the game for the team.

“And there’s a reason why you do it for 15 years—because you’ve done this day in and day out; you’ve won games for your teams.”

Virat Kohli has consistently amassed runs throughout his T20 career, showcasing his ability to score prolifically.

However, as June’s T20 World Cup approaches, India’s focus shifts towards not just the quantity of runs but also their impact and the rate at which they are scored.

It’s not merely about Kohli accumulating runs but doing so with a higher strike rate, especially in crucial moments during the tournament.

The team’s hopes are pinned on Kohli’s capability to adapt his game to deliver not just runs but match-winning performances with greater relevance and dynamism.

Dhiren is a News & Content Editor who loves all things football. He also has a passion for gaming and watching films. His motto is to "Live life one day at a time".

Images courtesy of Virat Kohli (@virat.kohli)

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