Does Virat Kohli merit a place in this Indian T20 side for 2024 T20 World Cup?

Imagine being the highest run scorer for your T20 side for 3 of the last 4 T20 World Cups. You have been carrying your side throughout the World Cups singlehandedly with the weight of a million expectations behind you. Still, there are questions lingering about your place in the side. It’s tough being Virat Kohli. But it’s sports after all. The past quickly turns out to be history and you have to constantly strive hard to prove yourself that you belong. It gets even tougher once you age over 30.

It’s in Virat Kohli’s journey where he has to fight for everything to prove his worth. Be it captaincy or even his slump with the bat. Even during the last edition of the T20 World Cup, there had been talks about the ‘finished’ Virat Kohli. But in the end, when the going got tough, the tough got going. Millions had hopes, eyes, and hearts pinned on the finished number 3 to carry them over the line.

But the world is fast paced just like the format. It demands evolution with each passing season. Times have changed since the last World Cup though. It’s the new era of Indian T20 cricketers featured in the side with senior players being rested. The Gills, Gaikwads and Rinkus. The new fearless approach has taken over this new looking Indian side. The question is: Does Virat Kohli fit into this fearless, attacking Indian setup?

In this new digital era, people including the pundits and even popular media sources have a very fickle memory. A newbie plays one series well, and the ‘experts’ forget who has been doing that regularly in the past. And the question is will they be able to continue with their fearless template against world class bowlers in a high pressure World Cup match? Once the situation gets tougher, there’s no one better than Virat Kohli. He’s been doing that ever since he donned the Indian jersey. Virat Kohli has been the leading run scorer at number 3 in T20Is since the 2022. He has scored 659 runs at a strike rate of 130. 80. He is the insurance policy that protects you in case of any mishaps. He can change gears if needed or arrest a collapse. Once he gets past the 30s, he becomes a different player altogether.

His game against spin has been a talking point amongst everyone. The Indian genius averaged 248 against the spinners in the 2023 ODI World Cup. I agree that the format is different and the risks involved are different. But the way he looked at ease against them showed us that he could play aggressively if need be. India could give him a role that he never had the chance in his entire career: to play freely without worrying about his wicket, to go out there and completely express yourself. With other batters playing aggressively and in form, Virat can be given a free hand to express himself. If needed, he can save the side from troubled waters. Give him the flexible role to express himself according to the situation.

The way Kohli was hitting the ball in the 2023 World Cup, very few would argue that he must not feature in the T20 World Cup next year. He’s just in his zone and looks hardly troubled. The 2016-2018 zone. When in such form, you hardly raise eyebrows on his merit in the side. But it all boils down to what the management wants. If they want a complete revamp of the side like the 2007 T20 World Cup, it should be a new setup with the young fearless brigade with none of the senior players featuring. A full fledged young looking T20 side. But with Virat in such great form, drop him at your own peril. Leave Virat Kohli alone and let him weave his magic yet another time…

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