Former Indian opener Aakash Chopra expressed surprise at Virat Kohli’s attacking approach during the second T20I between India and Afghanistan but also cautioned that if he starts playing at a much higher strike rate, he could lose his consistency, which has been one of his hallmarks. Fans in Indore and those watching through electronic devices had a reason to rejoice as ‘King Kohli’ made his return to the T20I format after more than a year following a crushing loss to England in the ICC T20 World Cup 2022 semifinal. Virat put aside all debates about his strike rate within a matter of a few bat swings, batting with a strike rate of well above 150 and often dancing down the pitch to smash his trademark shots. There were no signs of rust whatsoever as he entertained fans during his brief but electric stay at the crease.
On his YouTube channel, Aakash said, “He was stepping out from the first ball, hitting over the top, and playing shots everywhere. I said he was also playing differently.”
Aakash said that it would be better if Virat played near his T20I career strike rate of around 140 to retain his consistency.
“I feel Virat Kohli is at his best; he has scored more than 4000 runs at a strike rate of around 140, so it is good if he plays close to that. If he tries to do more than that, he will lose his consistency. If he loses his consistency, I will be slightly sad as an Indian cricket fan,” said Chopra.
Virat is the highest run-getter in T20Is. In 116 matches, he has scored 4,037 runs at an average of 52.42 at a strike rate of 138.20. He has scored a century and 37 fifties and his best score is 122*.
Aakash also expressed his disappointment with skipper Rohit Sharma’s shot selection. Rohit attempted to dance down the track for an aggressive shot, but was cleaned up by Fazalhaq Farooqi for a golden duck, his second duck in the series.
“It was extremely surprising the way Rohit got out. He was playing just his first ball. He does not play such shots. The ball went and hit his stumps. He got run out in the last match and was bowled for zero in this match. He has not scored a single run in this series thus far,” said Aakash.
Aakash said that Rohit will have to score some runs in IPL 2024 and Men in Blue need the starts he used to provide during the ICC Cricket World Cup at home last year, during which he scored 597 runs in 11 matches at a strike rate of over 125.
“Run-out was not his mistake but the shot selection was. There is no doubt about Rohit Sharma’s form and ability. However, he will have to be in form in the IPL and I feel he will bat like this only. We need 38-40, the runs he was scoring in the ODI World Cup, from his bat,” concluded Aakash.
Coming to the match, India opted to field first and troubled Afghanistan with frequent wickets. Gulbadin Naib (57 in 35 balls, with five fours and four sixes) continued to play unbothered, despite wickets falling at the other end and made an attacking fifty.
Short cameos from Najibullah Zadran (23 in 21 balls with a boundary and two sixes), Karim Janat (20 in 10 balls with two fours and a six) and Mujeeb ur Rahman (21 in nine balls with two fours and two sixes) powered Afghanistan to 172 in their 20 overs.
Pacer Arshdeep Singh (3/32) was the pick of the bowlers for India, while Ravi Bishnoi (2/39) and Axar (2/17) also bowled well to restrict Afghanistan’s run flow. Shivam Dube also took 1/36 in his three overs.
In the chase of 173, skipper Rohit Sharma was once again out for a duck. But a returning Virat Kohli (29 in 16 balls, with five fours) played with a refreshing attacking intent and formed a 57-run stand with Yashasvi Jaiswal. Following Virat’s dismissal, Yashasvi (68 in 34 balls, with five fours and six sixes) and Shivam Dube (63* in 32 balls with five fours and four sixes) demolished the Afghanistan bowling line-up with their hitting, putting up a 92-run partnership in just 42 balls. Rinku Singh (9*) and Shivam finished off things to give India a six-wicket win and a series win by 2-0, with one game left.
Karim Janat (2/13) was the pick of the bowlers for Afghanistan. Axar Patel was the ‘Player of the Match’ for his bowling spell.
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