Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli's poor record in World Cup knockout games a concern

Zaheer Khan says India need to be prepared if Kohli and Rohit fail with the bat against New Zealand in the semifinal tomorrow

By Anis Sajan

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India's Virat Kohli during a practice session at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. — PTI
India's Virat Kohli during a practice session at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. — PTI

Published: Tue 14 Nov 2023, 7:23 PM

Last updated: Wed 15 Nov 2023, 8:55 AM

As India go into the World Cup semifinal clash against New Zealand at Wankhede, fans are curious to see if captain Rohit Sharma will play the same brand of aggressive cricket at the top order.

Or will Rohit play with a bit more caution since it's a knockout game in which few mistakes can prove costly?

Barring two games, the first match against Australia in Chennai and the one against Sri Lanka, Rohit has managed to give India flying starts.

The Indian skipper has struck at an astonishing strike rate of 121.49 in the tournament, making it easy for the middle-order batsmen.

With 594 runs, Virat Kohli is the highest scorer in the tournament so far, playing the anchor's role to perfection.

While the bowlers have deservedly earned the plaudits, the consistency of Rohit and Kohli at the top order has played a big role in India's dominant display in the league phase.

Until now, India have not faced a situation where their two best batsmen have failed in the same match.

But that's exactly what happened in the 2019 World Cup semifinal against New Zealand as both Kohli and Rohit fell early with India suffering a painful defeat.

Yes, India's middle-order batters, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul and even Suryakumar Yadav, have stepped up and played some fine innings in the tournament.

But the knockout matches are a different ball game where a team's temperament will be tested if their two best batsmen fail to deliver.

Another stat which must be worrying all Indian fans is the poor record of Rohit and Kohli in 50 overs ICC knockout games.

In 2015 World Cup semifinal, Kohli made just one and Rohit (34) failed to convert his start as India buckled under the pressure of chasing a 300-plus total against hosts Australia.

In the 2017 Champion Trophy final against Pakistan, Rohit fell for a duck and Kohli made only five in India's 180-run defeat.

In the 2019 World Cup semifinal, both the big guns fell cheaply again.

India were chasing in all three of those games as the rest of the batsmen failed to step up and deliver after the fall of Rohit and Kohli.

I recently had a chat with Zaheer Khan, the former Indian pacer and a key member of the 2011 World Cup-winning Indian team.

I asked him if this Indian batting line-up could weather the storm if Kohli and Rohit fail again.

Zaheer said India needs to be prepared for it and must have Plan B or Plan C.

Easier said than done. It needs to be seen how the semifinal pans out, but Indian fans will be hoping the juggernaut continues.

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