Virat Kohli remains a key player for India, said head coach Rahul Dravid, who is happy with the refreshed former captain’s Asia Cup form and said people should not get hung up with statistics.
The 33-year-old Kohli made an unbeaten 59 in India’s group win over Hong Kong and looks revitalised ahead of the Asia Cup holders’ Super Four clash with fierce rivals Pakistan in Dubai on Sunday night.
Kohli’s lean patch – he has not scored an international century in any format since 2019 – has been a constant talking point among fans and pundits.
But Dravid insisted the former captain was getting back to top form after a break from the game.
“It’s nice to see that he has come back fresh,” Dravid told reporters.
“He played very well in the last match, and we are happy with his performance. For us, it’s not really about how many runs he makes.
“Especially with Virat, people get a little bit obsessed with his statistics and his numbers. For us, it’s not really about that,” said Dravid.
Kohli revealed recently that he had tried to fake his intensity after suffering mental health issues, before taking a break from cricket and skipping India’s tours of the West Indies and Zimbabwe.
Kohli began the six-nation tournament, which is an important tune-up for the T20 World Cup next month, with a crucial 35 in the narrow win over Pakistan.
“For us, it’s about the contributions he can make in different phases of the game and what the contribution is. It doesn’t have to be in fifties or hundreds or a stat,” said Dravid.
“Even small contributions mean a lot in T20 cricket, what is the role of a player and what the team needs. Virat is pretty keen in putting in big performances. Hopefully he can keep doing that in the tournament.”
Kohli, who has struck 27 centuries in 102 Tests since making his debut in 2011, has had a tough 12 months or so on the field that also saw him replaced as national captain.
He recently played his 100th Twenty20 international and has an average more than 50 including 31 half-centuries.
‘Four letter word starts with S’
Dravid on Saturday said he remains confident in his bowlers despite them not being as “glamorous” as their Pakistan counterparts in the Asia Cup Twenty20 tournament.
The arch-rivals, who only play each other in multi-nation tournaments due to political tensions, will clash in the Super Four stage in Dubai on Sunday.
It will be the second meeting for the two Asian giants in the competition after India edged out Pakistan in the group stage.
“They are a good bowling side, but we also bowled well to restrict them to 147 (in the first match),” Dravid said on being asked whether Pakistan have a better bowling line-up.
“End of the day bowling analysis is the most important thing. You are judged by the results you produce. I respect their bowling but I am very confident that we have a good bowling attack that produces results.”
The former captain, on the eve of the high-profile match told reporters with an answer that produced a fair few laughs in the press room: “(Our bowling) might not look very glamorous but in terms of results we got some guys who produce results.”
Pace bowler Avesh Khan remains doubtful for the key clash.
“Avesh has been under the weather but hopefully he should be okay for tomorrow or for the later part of the tournament,” said Dravid.
India’s bowling, led by experienced seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar, have Arshdeep Singh and Hardik Pandya as pace options followed by spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Axar Patel, who replaced the injured Ravindra Jadeja.
Dravid believes high-pressure matches against Pakistan remain a good test for the team ahead of the T20 World Cup in October-November.
“We know Pakistan is a good team and it is a challenging match,” said Dravid.
“It will be a packed stadium and there is always an edge to these games and it’s good to play such games where you are tested. It’s good to play such tournaments before the World Cup.”
Pakistan suffered injury blows with three of their fast bowlers including ace quick Shaheen Shah Afridi, but Naseem Shah’s express pace has kept the opposition batsmen wary.
Pace bowler Haris Rauf insists the 19-year-old Naseem, who has taken four wickets in two matches and clocks speeds of over 90 mph, has given him confidence despite Shaheen’s absence.
“The way Naseem bowled in the last two matches, that has given me the confidence,” said Rauf.
“Partnerships are important in bowling as well. I have been playing with Shaheen for a while. I used to be relaxed when Shaheen is around. But seeing Naseem, I am getting the situation I am comfortable to bowl in.”