‘Champion player’ Rahul will continue to open: Kohli


India captain Virat Kohli threw his weight behind struggling opener K L Rahul, calling him “a champion player” who remains the best candidate along with Rohit Sharma for the opening slot in the shortest format.

Rahul is in woeful form, with scores of 1, 0, 0 in the first three T20Is of the England series in Ahmedabad.

Kohli, who was dismissed for naught in the fourth Test and first T20I against England before turning it around with unbeaten scores of 73 and 77, said it is a matter of a few deliveries before Rahul regains his form.

“I was going through a lean patch two days back. He (Rahul) has been a champions player. He’ll continue to be one of our main players along with Rohit at the top of the order,” Kohli said, at the post-match presentation, after India lost to England by eight wickets in the third T20I on Tuesday.

“It’s a matter of five-six balls in this format.”

Kohli, who pulled India out of trouble in Tuesday’s outing with a 46-ball knock, said it was tough facing the new ball, especially with pacer Mark Wood hitting 90-plus miles per hour.

“You don’t want to play knocks which don’t help the team in any way. It was a bit difficult to bat against the new ball. Their bowlers were hitting good areas.

“The England bowlers attacked right lines and lengths and with their pace they became more potent.

“We got one little partnership; it was important for me to bat deep. The case was to get set and try to get a decent total. We lacked intensity in the second half.”

Talking about Hardik Pandya, Kohli said,” We want to give Hardik a bit more responsibility with the ball; we know what he can do with the bat.”

England skipper Eoin Morgan praised his bowlers for their “exceptional” display.

“When you look at conditions tonight, Adil (Rashid) started well and when the pacers came on, the carry that we saw was a bit of a surprise for us. I thought the first half of our bowling was exceptional,” he said.

“The wicket stayed similar, throughout all the games, and if you lose early wickets at the top that raises a question. It’s just a dynamic of T20 cricket.”

Jos Buttler blasted an unbeaten 83 as England overhauled the target of 157 in 18.2 overs.

“Jos is a world-class player and he has averaged upwards of 50 and striking at 150 at the top. There’s very little you have to say to Jos. He’s been in incredible form and he’s a great leader within our group,” Morgan said.

England’s skipper received his 100th cap on Tuesday from Buttler, and said he was moved by his words.

“It nearly got me to tears [getting the 100th cap from Buttler]. He’s a great friend of mine and our families are close. His words warmed my heart and I’m very grateful for that.”

Adjudged Man of the Match for his whirlwind innings, Buttler said: “It was nice to spend time in the middle and I always like to not out at the end.”

“It just felt like a good time to attack [at the top]. It was nice to chance my arm a bit. The first six off got me up and running and gave me confidence.”

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