T20 World Cup 2022: KL Rahul should open, probably got more ability than Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, says Gautam Gambhir
Dismissing suggestions that Virat Kohli should open the batting in the T20 World Cup 2022, former India opener Gautam Gambhir has firmly backed KL Rahul to do the job, and said the out-of-form batter has “probably got more ability”.
With his 61-ball century against Afghanistan during the Asia Cup, Kohli snapped his long century drought. This sparked discussion about whether Kohli or Rahul should start the championship match in Australia next month.
“You know what happens in India? The moment someone starts doing very well, for example, when Virat Kohli scored a hundred in the last game, we all start forgetting what Rahul and Rohit have done over a long period of time,” Gambhir said on Star Sports during a virtual press conference ahead of India’s three-match T20I series against Australia.
“When you talk about Kohli opening the batting, imagine what happens to KL Rahul… Imagine the amount of insecurity he (Rahul) must be feeling. Imagine if he gets a low score in the first game, there will be another debate on whether Kohli should open in the next game.”
Rahul, who returned off a protracted injury layoff during the IPL, is still getting his bearings and has one half-century from seven innings. He averaged 26.40 in the Asia Cup and had 132 runs in five innings.
The batter should be allowed to play freely, said Gambhir, who earlier this year served as the coach of the Rahul-led Lucknow Super Giants in the IPL. When Rahul was in charge, LSG lost to Royal Challengers Bangalore by 14 runs in the Eliminator and was eliminated.
“You don’t want your top class players in that position, especially KL Rahul who has probably got more ability than Rohit Sharma or Virat Kohli.”
“Imagine KL Rahul going into the World Cup thinking, ‘what if I don’t score runs against Pakistan? What if I get replaced by Virat Kohli?’ You don’t want that. We should start thinking about how India can flourish, rather than certain individuals,” Gambhir said.
There is also uncertainty around the chosen wicketkeeper’s job because both Dinesh Karthik and Rishabh Pant are included in the team travelling to Australia.
In their Asia Cup opener against Pakistan, Karthik favoured over Pant; however, the left-hander made a comeback in the Super 4 games against Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and both players played against Afghanistan when skipper Rohit Sharma sat out.
In fact, the legendary Sunil Gavaskar has also spoken about playing both the keeper-batters, but Gambhir disagreed.
“You can’t do that. If you do that, you will miss out on a sixth bowler and you would not go into the World Cup with five bowlers. You need to have a backup.
“Unless you drop someone like a Suryakumar Yadav, or KL Rahul has a bad tournament, and you can start with Rishabh Pant opening the batting. Otherwise, I don’t see both of these players in the middle-order,” he said.
DK has no interest batting higher up
Karthik, who serves as a finisher, has “shown no interest,” according to Gambhir, in batting at higher places.
“I have said it in the past as well, you don’t pick a T20 player only to play 10-12 balls. There is no guarantee that he is going to win you games. And Dinesh Karthik, unfortunately, has shown no interest in batting in the top-5.
“Your wicketkeeper has to be able to bat in the top-5. And Rishabh Pant has that quality to bat at any number for that matter,” he added.
“I will definitely have Rishabh Pant in my batting order. I don’t believe in the notion that you need a left-hander in the middle-order. That’s not the criteria, especially in a side like India.
“The criteria should be — do you have the ability to win a game?. Rishabh Pant has that. So yeah, Pant to start with at No. 5, Hardik Pandya at 6, Axar at 7. And see if you want Ashwin at 8, followed by three seamers,” he concluded.