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Sourav Ganguly says Virat Kohli has to find a way to score again, Ashish Nehra wants him to take a break

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With the announcement of India’s T20I squad for the West Indies tour imminent, there have been reports of Virat Kohli being rested for the three-match series despite the lack of runs from him and the intense competition for the batting spots in the lead up to the World Cup later this year. BCCI president Sourav Ganguly believes Kohli “has got to find his way” to score runs again and former India quick Ashish Nehra, who worked with Kohli at Royal Challengers Bangalore, feels there is no harm in taking a break to come back fresh later.

“Yes, he has had a tough time and he knows that,” Ganguly told ANI. “He has been a great player himself. He himself knows by his own standards it has not been good and I see him coming back and doing well. But he has got to find his way and become successful, which he has been for the last 12-13 years or more and only Virat Kohli can do that.

“These things will happen in sport. It has happened to everybody. It has happened to Sachin [Tendulkar], It has happened to Rahul [Dravid], it has happened to me, it has happened to Kohli. It is going to happen to future players. That’s part and parcel of sport and I think as a sportsman you just need to listen, be aware of what it is and just go and play your game.”

Kohli has been enduring a lean patch across formats in the last few years, with his last international century coming in 2019. After a below-par run in the IPL, he scored 11 and 20 in the Edgbaston Test earlier this month followed by 1 and 11 in the second and third T20Is against England. A minor groin strain ruled him out of the first ODI and it’s unclear whether he will be part of the second match on Thursday.

Recently, former India captain Kapil Dev added to the growing chorus questioning Kohli’s place in India’s T20I XI, especially with a number of in-form players fighting for a place in the squad. Nehra said Kohli should keep such discussions out of his head and only focus on his game.

“When you are not performing, there will be discussions even if you’re not a player of Kohli’s calibre,” Nehra said in a virtual interaction by Sony Sports Network. “When you are doing broadcasting, newspaper, it is being printed every day and when you are playing, you try to focus on your game and not listen to so-called outside voices from people outside the dressing room. It is important how you are in the dressing room and how your team-mates, management and selectors are backing you. We are talking about a guy like Virat. Yes, it is not written anywhere that Virat Kohli will keep playing for India even if he doesn’t score runs. That will not happen, but when you have done so much in the past, you will always get extra chances.”

“I believe even for the last two and a half or whatever considerable period of time, even though he might not have got the hundreds, I still believe he’s batting beautifully.”

R Ashwin

While many former players, including former coach Ravi Shastri, suggested Kohli needed a break from cricket, Kohli himself agreed he could take some time off to rejuvenate himself mentally. He was rested for the first T20I against England following the Edgbaston Test and won’t play in the West Indies ODIs as well, that start on July 22.

Nehra agreed a break would be the best way to go for Kohli to break out of this form rut and hoped to see a “different Virat Kohli” turning up for the Asia Cup.

“Everybody knows what you have done and the talent you have. At the age of 33-34, fitness isn’t a problem for him. Everybody is hopeful that Virat Kohli will come good, the quicker the better. Let’s hope we see a different Virat after the West Indies series. If he rests for a month or five weeks, it will be helpful for him and any player will be under pressure if you do not score runs, especially the kind of player Virat has been. It has not been just 1-2 series, it has been, you can say 12 months.

“Rest is not a bad thing, you just played the IPL and then you played the Test, white-ball cricket, so it is good to see that Virat is getting a break. A break does not mean one week break or a three-day break. When you come back to Asia Cup, you come back fresh.”

India offspinner R Ashwin believes Kohli has been “batting beautifully” in the last few years despite what the numbers say, calling his energy on the field “infectious”.

“The more he is in the game and the more and more charged up he is, he bats so much more better,” Ashwin said on The Vaughany and Tuffers Cricket Club podcast. “And I believe even for the last two and a half or whatever considerable period of time, even though he might not have got the hundreds, I still believe he’s batting beautifully. The way he’s batting it looks like he’s probably got a double-hundred in the last one. It sometimes can happen, as a batter or as a cricketer you might be bowling well but the wickets are taken by somebody else.

“His energy is very infectious. Sometimes bowling in India – like recently we had a couple of Test matches I can’t remember exactly – he wasn’t playing those games and I actually missed him on the field. The kind of energy that he brings to the table. The man standing at short midwicket, stopping those singles, looking for those catches..that’s exactly what makes him. He loves that, and when he does that he definitely bats better as well, and that’s my viewing of him.”

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