Virat Kohli's role in the World Cup is extremely critical for the team's fortunes and the in-form batter needs to be given the right role for Team India to achieve success in the showpiece. Image Credit: Sportspicz for BCCI

Dubai: Indian cricket team has been one of the giants of world cricket, but in the last decade and a half the Men In Blue have not able to add any major trophies to their cabinet.

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The losses in the semi-finals and the final of the World Cups in both formats must have hurt them badly.

For some of the illustrious names, the Twenty20 World Cup in the West Indies and the USA provides another opportunity to make amends for the loss suffered at the hands of Australia in front of a packed home crowd in the 50-over World Cup final in Ahmedabad last November.

Indian ace Virat Kohli who was the leading run-getter played a big part in the hosts reaching final with an unbeaten 10-match winning run.

After scoring 765 runs at an average of 95.62, Kohli must have been disappointed not to hold the winners’ trophy.

The 35-year-old has been in sublime form over the last couple of years after overcoming a brief slump when he failed to notch up big scores that he is used to in the past. But his return to form has been very impressive proving his detractors wrong time and again.

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Virat Kohli has beein raising his game with some breathtaking assaults deep down the innings, especially while chasing.

Kohli the aggressor

Before the start of the 2024 Indian Premier League, Kohli’s presence in the Indian was once again questioned in the Indian media, highlighting his lower strike rate as the reason for blooding in the youngsters who are capable of scoring at a faster pace.

Kohli loves challenges, on and off the field. He never shies away from a scrap and once again he proved that he is the best in Indian batting line-up by winning the Orange Cap for the leading run-scorer in the IPL Season 17, and even took a dig at those talking about his strike rate.

With all the dust settled now, India’s top run-scorer in Twenty20 format still forms the vital cog in the wheels of India’s fortunes at the showpiece event. The master chaser is invaluable and could come up with breathtaking counter-assault deep down the innings to tilt the scales in India's favour.

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Now the big question is where should Kohli bat in this World Cup?

Going by the recent form, Kohli scored most of his runs in the IPL by opening the innings for Royal Challengers Bengaluru.

His continued success in the 14-match league and the play-off must have given the team management to look at Kohli as the opening partner to skipper Rohit Sharma.

Dube's bowling skills give him the edge

If one goes by the indicators during the warm-up match against Bangladesh, Shivam Dube could be used in the middle order to augment the line of deadly finishers to give that extra in the final overs. The Chennai Super Kings all-rounder’s ability to bowl must have given him the edge over Yashasvi Jaiswal.

Kohli opening the innings could work as a disadvantage for the Indian team, going by the last couple of events. He has been holding the innings together at No 3, which is crucial as losing wickets in both ends could concede the advantage to their rivals in the Twenty20 format.

Rishabh Pant has managed to do a good job at No 3, still Kohli moving up the order will expose the Indian batting to unnecessary pressure. The first five could go either way and the loss of Kohli and Rohit Sharma will leave the team in the hands of Hardik Pandya and Suryakumar Yadav.

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Kohli has the capability to bat anywhere in the order, but his wicket is too precious to tinker with in such a big tournament. Image Credit: Courtesy: Sportzpics for BCCI

Both Suryakumar and Pandya are capable of producing a match-winning performances, but it is Kohli’s cool head that will make a big difference like the way he spearheaded India to a thrilling win over Pakistan in the 2022 Twenty20 World Cup Group 2 opener in Melbourne.

Not a perfect evaluation

India, this time around, will have an easier lung-opener against Ireland on Wednesday, which gives them a chance for the underprepared team to get the combination right. However, it might not be a perfect evaluation as the bowling skills of Ireland is not the same to a world-class bowling combination of Pakistan.

India should not have a major worry in qualifying for the Super Eight, but the sooner they get the combination right, the better it is. Hence, instead of tinkering with No 3, it would be prudent for the team management to stick to the left-right opening combination of Jaiswal and Rohit Sharma and allow Kohli to play the anchor role for the rest to play freely.

In international cricket, Kohli has scored 4,037 runs coming in at No 3, even though he has been opening for Bengaluru since the inception of the IPL. Kohli has the skill and the technique to play in any position, but is it a risk worth taking to expose the best player to the vagaries of the new ball and undermine the efforts in the powerplay overs? Ideally not.