Virat Kohli wants youngsters to step up before T20 World Cup, talks about what's in store for Team India in 2020
Ahead of the T20I series against Sri Lanka, Indian skipper Virat Kohli spoke to the media about a host of topics. Keeping the T20 World Cup in mind, he has urged the middle-order to step up and deliver for India to win an ICC tournament. He also expressed that the team will look for frontrunners and reliable backups for the mega-event slated to take place in October.
India is yet to win an ICC tournament since 2013 when they defeated England to clinch the Champions Trophy. The team has suffered from a title drought since then, where India has seemingly relied upon its top-order batsmen - Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, and Virat Kohli. However, the middle-order has failed to deliver in the rare occurrence of a top order failure.
While speaking in the pre-match conference ahead of the 1st T20I versus Sri Lanka, Kohli addressed the issue and shed light upon how the focus is upon the lower-order line-up to prove themselves ahead of the T20 World Cup.
We need guys who are ready till number six and seven to win you games. It can't be dependent on two guys or three guys in the batting line-up. You know, that's not how you win ICC tournaments.
So that's our main focus to reveal situations to guys and expect them to come into their own and become those fearless match winners that we should have going into a big tournament.
India has a packed schedule in the limited-overs format this year, where they start with their assignment against Sri Lanka (T20Is) and Australia (ODI) before leaving New Zealand for a fully-fledged series. Scheduled to host South Africa and England before the T20 World Cup, the management will be hoping to tick all of their boxes in both the batting and bowling department.
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While India is constantly testing Rishabh Pant in the absence of MS Dhoni to keep wickets for the side, the team has also banked upon the likes of Shreyas Iyer, Shivam Dube, Washington Sundar to provide depth in the batting order. More recently, the team has integrated the likes of Deepak Chahar, Shardul Thakur, and Navdeep Saini in the T20 setup.
Kohli expressed his happiness on how India's T20I squad is beginning to take shape ahead of the T20 World Cup. He said:
I think because the tournament is in Australia, you will need these many options and back-ups ready to be able to take firstly your strongest XI or strongest squad and then have those back-ups in place, who also can come and do the job.
It's good that we identify five or six guys and it will be priority based on you know who goes and then back-ups will be in place. Also with fast bowlers, we know small niggles can happen every now and then. So yeah, we're pretty sorted in that regard, not worried at all.
India's limited-overs vice-captain Rohit Sharma has been rested for the T20I series against Sri Lanka. The team has an able replacement in Shikhar Dhawan, who will return to the side after recovering from a knee injury he suffered in November.
In Shikhar's absence, KL Rahul has performed brilliantly as an opener for India against the West Indies. Rahul scored 164 runs in 3 T20Is with two half-centuries to his name. He also struck 185 runs in the three following ODIs, showing a glimpse of his form in white-ball cricket.
Talking about what the opening combination might look like, Virat Kohli said:
As far as the series is concerned, it's pretty straightforward. Both of them will start (Dhawan and Rahul). But when Rohit comes back, you know, it's going to be a difficult thing to address because Shikhar has been an experienced player but KL is playing so well.
So I think we'll have to decide what is the best combination that we can go with and which is the best XI to take the field.
India had a remarkable 2019 despite the loss in the semi-final of the 2019 Cricket World Cup. When asked about what's in store for India in 2020, Kohli said:
We have put the team on the right track in terms of, you know, being the team that everyone wants to be across formats. I think it is a very exciting position to be in. And that is something that we want to continue, keep the standards of the cricket that we've played as high as we have in the past couple of years.
Kohli also spoke highly about the culture of motivating the players to focus upon winning matches for the team rather than focusing upon individual performances. He added:
I think we get involved in the rat race to an extent where we can go into our individual cocoons a lot of the times and that can hamper the team at an important stage. From a very young age, we are always focused on what we did as individuals. Even when we came back from a game, we were invariably asked, what did you do rather than, did the team win?
So I think that's a mindset change that I see that happening in the last three years at a very big level where they started to appreciate small performances of guys who might have taken a catch or a great run-out in the game and they turned the whole game.
Guwahati will host the first T20I between India and Sri Lanka on 5th January, from where the action will move to Indore (7th January) and Pune (10th January).