Copy of 059884-01-02-1714316901077
Royal Challengers Bengaluru's Virat Kohli in action during the Indian Premier League match against Gujarat Titans at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on Sunday. Bengaluru won the match by nine wickets. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: The D-Day is fast approaching for many cricketers around the world as the deadline to name teams for the Twenty20 World Cup, to be held in the West Indies and USA in June, is fast approaching.

The top nations are keeping an eye on the Season 17 of the Indian Premier League, which could shed some light on the form of players. The richest Twenty20 franchise league plays an even more critical role for the selection of Indian team.

More IPL stories

Before the start of the IPL this season, the biggest talking point was India’s talisman Virat Kohli of not being assured of a place in the team travelling to West Indies. While it did raise a few eyebrows, the low strike rate of the former Indian skipper, especially at the start of the innings, was cited as the reason for selectors to look out for other options. Not a prudent move.

Write off Kohli at your own peril. The star batter made his bat do the talking taking over the Orange Cap for the leading run-scorers in the IPL. This stability and form what makes the master run-chaser a key to India at the World Cup. The 35-year-old could be the anchor for the rest to bat around him.

Kohli scored his 54th half-century in IPL as he led the chase against Gujarat Titans’ stiff target of 201 in Ahmedabad in the first of the double-header on Sunday.

Copy of 060049-01-02-1714316904850
Royal Challengers Bengaluru's Will Jacks celebrates after his team's win against Gujarat Titans at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on Sunday. Image Credit: AFP

Kohli remained unbeaten on 70 with a strike-rate of 169 after playing the second fiddle to skipper and opener Faf du Plessis. He continued offering support to Will Jacks who at the other end plundered the Gujarat bowling to notch up his century in just 41 balls as Royal Challengers Bengaluru won by a massive nine wickets.

Kohli’s responsible innings on Sunday sends out a strong message to the critics. He showed his focus is not the strike rate in Twenty20 but to ensure his team crosses the line. He paces his innings wisely and the fact that he crossed the 500-run mark once again this season for the eighth time in his career proves how important his role is for a team to succeed.

“ I think all the people who talk about strike rates and me not playing spin well are the ones who love talking about this stuff. But, for me, it’s about winning the game for the team. And there is a reason you have done this for 15 years,” Kohli told the official broadcasters. “I have done this, day in and day out. I have won games for the team. And I am not quite sure if you have not been in that situation yourself, to sit and speak about the game from a box.

“I don’t think it’s the same thing. For me, it’s about doing the job for the team. People can sit and talk about their own ideas and assumptions of the game. But those who have done it, day in and day out, they know what they are doing. It’s kind of muscle memory for me,” he said without mincing his words.

But now the big question is, should Kohli open for India or come at his regular No 3 spot?

The veteran batter has been plundering runs as an opener in the IPL, so is the case with the other regular openers like skipper Rohit Sharma, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill and KL Rahul.

Kohli should play at his usual No 3 position, which gives the openers the license to go for the kill by maximising the powerplay overs. Then comes the question, so who among the rest should be opening? The choice could come down to Rohit Sharma and Jaiswal, which gives the left-right combination to upset the bowlers’ lengths.

The return of the trio of Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant and Jasprit Bumrah from injuries should boost the Indian team’s fortunes.

After Kohli, comes Suryakumar Yadav, followed by Rishabh Pant, Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja. The bowling will be led by Bumrah and should comprise two key spinners — Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav — and the other pacer will be a contest between Mohammed Siraj and Arshdeep Singh.

The core of the team will pick itself, while the remaining two key positions — the finisher role and the second wicketkeeper. The contestants are Rahul, Sanju Samson, Rinku Singh and Shivam Dube. Axar Patel could be thrown into the ring as his all-round abilities could lend the depth in batting and bowling, but Indian selection committee would do well by sticking with either Rinku or Dube.

Some spots might still be up for grabs, but Kohli has ensured that his name comes immediately after the skipper when the selectors announce the Indian team before the May 1 deadline.