India skipper Rohit Sharma has once again come to the defence of Virat Kohli after the batter was out for 16 in the second ODI against England to extend his prolonged lean patch.
At the post-match press conference following the team’s 100-run drubbing to England here on Thursday, Rohit looked agitated as he interrupted a scribe even before he could complete his question on Kohli’s poor run of form.
“Kyun ho rahi hain, yaar. Matlab mujhe samajh mein nahi aata, bhai. (Why is there so much of discussion… I can’t understand this),” Rohit said.
“He has played so many matches, over such a long period of time. He is such a great batter, so he does not need reassurance.”
If Rohit’s support was not enough, his English counterpart Jos Buttler too backed Kohli to regain his touch, and said a big knock is “always due” from a player of his calibre.
Making a comeback after sitting out the first ODI because of a groin strain, Kohli was dismissed after striking three boundaries at Lord’s, once again leading to discussions on his poor form.
In the preceding T20I series Kohli had scores of 1 and 11, and was also dismissed cheaply in the fifth Test against England, forcing legends such as Kapil Dev to wonder why he could not be dropped.
But Rohit maintained the the Indian No. 3 does not need any reassurance and his spot in the team is secure.
“As I have said previously, form can go up and down, it’s part and parcel for every cricketer’s career. Even the greatest of the cricketer would have his share of ups and downs.
“For someone who has won so many matches for India, you need one or two innings to bounce back. That’s what I feel and I am sure all those who follow cricket will think similarly.”
“I know there’s been discussions going on but we have to understand we have seen for years, players go through ups and downs, but quality never goes away, we have to keep that in mind.”
“Look at his past records, the number of hundreds, his average. He has the experience. You have slump even in personal life.”
Just before the Indian team arrived at Lord’s for the second match, the BCCI had announced the squad for the upcoming T20I series in the West Indies, which did not include Kohli. It is said that he had asked for rest.
Echoing Rohit’s views, Buttler too backed the 33-year-old Kohli.
“I suppose in a little way it’s quite refreshing for the rest of us that he (Kohli) is human and he can have a couple of low scores as well, but look he has been one of the best players, if not the best player in ODI cricket in the world,” the English skipper said.
“So he’s been a fantastic player for so many years and all batters, it just proves, go through runs of form where they don’t perform as well as they can do sometimes, but certainly as an opposition captain, you know a player of that class is always due, so you’re hoping that it doesn’t come against us,” said Buttler.
Opting to field, the Rohit-led side had England tottering for 148/6 only to let them recover to 246.
The total proved more than enough as India suffered a top-order collapse before being bundled out for 146 in 38.5 overs.
“This is also a challenge for us, whenever we lose five-six early wickets we too have to learn how our lower order too can make runs,” he said.
“For quite a long time, this is ailing the team. We need to focus a bit more on this, on how to bring more balance to it and improve our batting.”
Urging his batters to change their mindset and take the game on, Rohit said: “The game is evolving, batsmanship is evolving. As a team we need to evolve as well.
“We need to change our mindset, try to be extra positive and take the game on. We have to see if there is another way when you are chasing a target like that. Is there something different that you can do as a batting unit.
“I think you can so. It has happened for us on a few occasions. Imagine the confidence they can get from that, it depends on that particular individual, it will also instill confidence in the middle,” he added.
Tri-series or quadrangular series the way forward
On the relevance of bilateral series with the international calendar heavily crammed, Rohit said tri-nations or quadrangular tournament could be the way forward.
“I do think it is important but it can be managed in a better way for sure. The scheduling has to be done with some space as well. You have to play bilateral series, there was a time, when we were kids, I grew up, I watched a lot of tri-series or quadrangular series, but that has completely stopped.
“I think that can be a way forward so that there is enough time for a team to recover and get back. These all are high-pressure games that we play, whenever you represent your country, you want to come out with a lot of intensity.”
“You do not want to compromise on that so of course, I do understand when we play the bilateral series, the scheduling, time between each game can be managed slightly better, not just from India’s perspective, but all boards.
“If that happens, you see the best quality of players coming out and representing every game. When you play back-to-back games, you have to look after players and understand the workload.
“Honestly, from the outside world, people want to see all the best players playing and if those things are managed quite well, the quality of cricket will not be compromised,” he signed off.