Kohli is third opener but Rahul has Rohit's backing as first-choice opener

"There is no confusion. We are very clear about what KL brings to us," Rohit says

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
Virat Kohli is India's third opening batter, there will be games where he will open, Rohit Sharma has said, but has also added that KL Rahul has the full support of the team management and remains India's first-choice opener for the World Cup. Kohli opened in the absence of the resting Rohit in India's final match at the Asia Cup, a dead rubber, and scored his first T20I hundred, his first in international cricket in nearly three years.
"It's always nice to have options available to you," Rohit said two days before the start of the three-T20I series against Australia. "It is very important when you go in a tournament like a World Cup. You want the flexibility. We only talk about it, but this is actually what it means. You want your players to be in their best shape, batting in any position and so on.
"For us, when we try and do something new, it doesn't mean that is permanent. We understand the quality of all the players and what they bring to us. We do understand that, but yeah it is an option for us. We will keep that in mind that since we haven't taken a third opener, he can obviously open. He opens for his franchise and has done really well. It is a definite option for us."
Since Kohli is now the identified third opener, he will be given a chance or three to open before the World Cup. "I have had a chat with Rahul bhai [Dravid, the coach] that we will have to open with Virat in some matches because he is our third opener," Rohit said. "We saw that in the last match, and we are quite happy with what we saw. I don't think we will experiment for that position a lot."
That doesn't have any negative implications for Rahul, who is still finding his way back in after an injury layoff. "KL Rahul, according to me, will play the World Cup, and open," Rohit said. "His performances for India tend to go unnoticed. He is a very important player for India. If you look at his record over the last two-three years, it is very good.
"I don't think it is right to not consider one performance because someone else has performed. We are clear what is cooking but I want to make it clear for people. There is no confusion. We are very clear about what KL brings to us. He is a very, very important and a quality player, and a match-winner as well. His presence at the top is very, very crucial for us."
That leaves India with the same top three as the one in the last World Cup in the UAE in 2021. In that World Cup, India failed to make it out of the group stages, and again failed to make the final of the Asia Cup at the same venue. Rohit, though, said this time was different because India batted with their new approach and came close even in defeats.
"We will continue to play like that," Rohit said of their new, aggressive batting style. "That is something we spoke quite clearly right at the beginning. Everyone is quite comfortable with that. At the same time we know what our second line of defence is. We spend a lot of time talking about these kind of things. Guys are very clear how to bat at 10 for 3, and how to bat at 50 for no loss. All those things have been discussed a lot at length. Now it is all about going and executing it.
"If you see our Asia Cup as well, we posted par-plus or par score in every game. Except that one game against Sri Lanka where we got only 173 - not only, 173 is a good score. And you saw those two games against Pakistan and Sri Lanka as well, it went to the last over. It could have gone either way. We are not very worried about what happened there.
"Honestly we played good cricket. And when you are playing a tournament like that, you need some luck also. I am not saying 100% luck, but at least 5%. Be it the toss or the odd run-out. Basically rub of the green has to go your way also. Which I am expecting it can happen at the World Cup, I hope. That approach of ours has given us a lot of success and trust that we can go out and play. A lot of the guys in the team have achieved something while doing that so it is a great sign and we are quite happy with it. We will have another review meeting after the South Africa series to see how everything went in the last 10 months for us and what we need to do for the World Cup. Of course we believe in a lot of analysis as to if we are trying to do something, how did it pan out?"

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo