BIRMINGHAM: Star India batter Virat Kohli would be desperate to come out of his prolonged lean patch when he makes his T20 return after five months with the second game against England, here on Saturday.
Kohli, who last played a T20 international in February, has featured in only two games since India’s underwhelming campaign in the T20 World Cup in October-November when he was captain of the national side.
The only T20 cricket he played since then was in the IPL but there too he was far from his best.
Kohli and other seniors getting frequent breaks as part of the team’s rest and rotate policy gave opportunity to fringe players like Deepak Hooda, who will be difficult to drop on Saturday after the performances he has come up with.
Batting at Kohli’s position, Hooda has made a big impact and also showed ominous form in the series opener against England, scoring a 17-ball 33.
If India decide to retain Hooda, then Kohli could open alongside skipper Rohit Sharma at the expense of Ishan Kishan, who has also been consistent at the top.
The opening position is something Kohli is quite familiar with and his last half-century in T20 Internationals also came at the top.
With Kohli expected to take another break for the five T20s against the West Indies, the two games against England assume more importance as far as his future in the T20 set up is concerned.
Kohli has ‘been there and done that’ but with the younger lot playing fearless cricket, he will need to come back to his best.
The first game against England saw the return of Rohit after a COVID-induced break and the team put together a perfect game. The batters displayed the uninhibited approach that has become essential in the shortest format while the pacers exploited the conditions brilliantly.
Shedding the conservative style of play that let them down in the World Cup, Indian batters gave clear signs of their approach going forward. The powerplay fetched 66 runs and even after the fall f wickets, the intent was to go hard from ball one.
However, the team can improve its finishing skills, an area it lacked in on Thursday night.
Besides Kohli, Rishabh Pant, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravindra Jadeja and Shreyas Iyer have also joined the T20 squad following a break after the fifth Test here.
It seemed India were a batter short in the series-opener though they ended up with 198. Jadeja is a like for like replacement for Axar Patel and his inclusion also makes the batting unit more solid.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been mighty impressive with the new ball and Bumrah is expected to join him. Arshdeep Singh made a successful debut but since he is not part of the squad for the next two games, Umran Malik may get more chances.
Hardik Pandya had a game to remember with both and ball and his presence is surely a big boost to the side in a World Cup year.
Rohit will also want to see a marked improvement in the team’s fielding, especially catching after an ordinary show on Thursday.
England, who were blown away by the visitors at Southampton, will back themselves to make a strong comeback.
They rely a lot on skipper Jos Buttler who will be keen to make amends after his first ball duck.
The power packed batting including Liam Livingstone and Jason Roy failed in the first game but trust them to come good in a must win game.