In the final T20I match against England on Saturday, Virat Kohli opened the innings and laid the foundation for victory in not only the game but also the series.
The Indian cricket team captain scored an unbeaten 80 in just 52 balls at a strike rate of 153. More importantly, he forged a 94-run partnership (54 balls) with the mercurial Rohit Sharma, who blazed 64 runs in just 34 balls.
The innings has prompted Virat Kohli to consider opening the innings often, not only in international cricket, particularly the ICC T20 World Cup later this year but also in the Indian T20 League.
In Saturday’s decider, Kohli replaced the struggling KL Rahul. It was a tactical move that also gave India the option of playing an additional bowler. For legend Sunil Gavaskar, KL Rahul’s dismal form was a blessing in disguise.
“Your best batsman should bat the most number of overs in limited-overs cricket. So it was very important for Virat Kohli to bat at the top of the order,” Gavaskar said. He also drew parallels to Sachin Tendulkar’s ODI career.
Sachin used to bat in the middle order in the early part of his career and only took to opening consistently five years after he had made his debut in New Zealand in 1994.
Of his 49 ODI centuries, Sachin Tendulkar smashed 45 of them as an opener. He averaged 48.30 as an opener and 33.14 in other positions combined.
Virat Kohli’s T20 career as an opener at a glance
Virat Kohli’s 80 not out against England is his highest T20I score as an opener in eight innings. So far, at the top, he averages just 39.71 compared to his towering T20 career average of 52.
As a No. 3, Virat averages 58 and as a No. 4 batsman, he averages 45.
In the Indian T20 League, Virat has scored runs at an average of 38.17 in 184 innings. He has opened in 61 of those, at an average of 47.86.
Clearly, there is potential.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Jewel Samad