Ahead of the T20I series against Australia, India captain Rohit Sharma confirmed that talismanic batter Virat Kohli will be the third opener in the side. Rohit also hinted at Kohli opening the batting in a few matches as the hosts begin their final leg of preparations for the T20 World Cup, to be held in Australia next month.
When India played in last year's T20 World Cup in the UAE, Ishan Kishan was the back-up opening option. But with him missing the bus for this year's T20 World Cup, Kohli is now being seen as a third opener, especially after he hit an unbeaten 122 off just 61 balls, laced with 12 fours and six sixes, at a strike-rate of 200 against Afghanistan in India's last Super Four match of Asia Cup 2022.
"I had a word with Rahul bhai (Dravid, head coach) that we might have to open with Virat in some matches as he's our third opener. We have seen that in the last match (against Afghanistan) and we are happy with what we saw of it. I don't think we are going to experiment a lot with that position," said Rohit in the press conference.
In that match, with Sharma resting, Kohli was promoted to opening the batting alongside KL Rahul. The duo shared a rollicking opening stand of 119 off 76 balls, with Rahul making 65 of those runs. Kohli, on the other hand, went on to slam his first century in international cricket in nearly three years.
"It is always nice to have options available for you. It is very important going into a tournament like the World Cup that you want flexibility. We only talk about it, but this is what actually means. You want the players to be in best shape batting at any position. Honestly, when we try and do something new, that does not mean that's a problem."
"For us, we understand the quality of all our players and what they bring for us; we understand that. But, it is an option for us, we will always keep that in mind. Since we have not taken a third opener, he opens for his franchise (in the IPL) and he has done really well, so it is a definite option for us," added Rohit.
Although Rohit called Virat as a definite opening option for India, he maintained that Rahul will be the first choice to open the batting with him. "But KL Rahul will open the batting in the World Cup, his performance sometimes goes quite unnoticed. He is a very important player for Team India and one must see his record for us in last two-three years, which is very good. One or two bad game can't overshadow his past records, which isn't right."
"For us, I just want to make it clear for everyone, we are clear in our thought process. We do not have any confusion. We are very clear what KL brings to the table for us, he is a quality player and is very important for us as well as a match winner. His presence at the top is very, very crucial for us."
After playing the first T20I against Australia on Tuesday in Mohali, India will play the second and third T20I in Nagpur and Hyderabad on September 23 and 25 respectively.