Former Indian opener Aakash Chopra raised concerns over middle-order batter KL Rahul’s omission from the squad against Afghanistan, especially when he and skipper Rohit Sharma both put up disappointing numbers during ICC T20 World Cup 2022 in Australia, but the ‘Hitman’ got a chance to return to the national T20I side. Star opener Rohit Sharma and batter Virat Kohli returned to India’s T20I squad against Afghanistan as the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on Sunday revealed a 16-player roster for a three-match T20I series, starting on January 11. The senior duo made a comeback to India’s T20I setup for the first time since the end of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022, in what is a major development for the side ahead of the T20 World Cup 2024.

But KL Rahul remained absent from the side. To this, Chopra questioned on his Youtube Channel that what wrong KL had done, especially after having a good ICC Cricket World Cup last year with the bat. He also pointed out that Rohit failed to do well in T20 WC 2022 and did well in the 50-over tournament next year to earn his way back in the team.

“When you want to go back to your seniors, what is Rahul’s mistake? If you are making the team based on the last T20 World Cup performance, both Rohit and Rahul did not do well. Both are in the same boat,” said Aakash on his channel.

“After that, both have done well, if we see the last World Cup, the ODI one. Then both names should have been there. Rahul even keeps and bats down the order now. So you could have played him there as well. However, Rahul is not there but Rohit is. Virat Kohli is there. You were not looking to keep him for the last one year,” he added.

Rohit (116 runs in six matches at an average of 19.33 and a strike rate of above 106 with a fifty) and KL (128 runs in six matches at an average of 21.33, with a strike rate of above 120 and two fifties) had disappointing T20 World Cups in Australia, following which they did not play any T20Is further.

To add to their depleting T20 stats, both had an average IPL 2023 as well. Rohit scored just 332 runs in 16 innings at an average of 20.75 and a strike rate of over 132, with just two fifties. KL’s season was cut short by an injury and scored 274 runs in nine matches at an average of 34.25 and two fifties, but at a sub-par strike rate of 113.22.

Virat on the other hand was the top run-scorer during T20 WC 2022 with 296 runs in six matches at an average of 98.66, with a strike rate of 136.40 and four half-centuries. He also had a fine IPL 2023, scoring 639 runs in 14 matches at an average of 53.25 and a strike rate of almost 140, with two centuries and six fifties.

All three though had record-breaking outings in Cricket World Cup 2023, with Virat scoring 765 runs in 11 matches at an average of 95.62, with three tons and six fifties, and Rohit getting 597 runs in 11 matches at an average of 54.27, with a century and three fifties at a strike rate of over 125. KL also served as a middle-order pillar with 452 runs in 10 innings at an average of 75.33, with a century and two fifties.

Chopra also questioned why wicketkeeper-batter Sanju Samson was included in the squad ahead of Ishan Kishan despite not being featured in important series/squads ahead of any major ICC tournaments. Notably, Ishan got himself released from the Test squad during South Africa tour due to personal reasons just before its start.

“Now Sanju Samson is there. For a long time, you were not selecting him in the important format for the year, but now suddenly, he has become a part of your scheme of things. Ishan Kishan is not there. He has given slightly patchy performances but that can be said about Shubman Gill also if you talk about T20Is,” he said.

Both Samson and Kishan have patchy, inconsistent T20I records. While Samson has scored just 374 runs in 21 innings at an average of 19.68, with just one fifty and a strike rate of above 133, Kishan is slightly better with 796 runs in 32 innings at an average of 25.67, with a strike rate of above 124 and six fifties.

Chopra also said that only one of Yashasvi Jaiswal or Gill will open with Rohit or Virat could get to open with Rohit to play number one ranked T20I batter Suryakumar Yadav at number three.

“Going forward, only one of Yashasvi Jaiswal and Shubman Gill can open with Rohit Sharma. A school of thought could be to get Virat Kohli to open with Rohit because then only you will be able to play Suryakumar Yadav at No. 3, or else you would not be able to do that,” he said.

Jaiswal has been impressive in T20Is so far, scoring 430 runs in 14 innings at an average of 33.07 and a strike rate of over 159, with a century and three fifties. Gill on the other hand has been underwhelming, with 326 runs in 13 innings at an average of 26.00 and a strike rate of over 145, with 126 of them coming in a single inning. He also has a half-century in the format. Otherwise, his T20I stats are marked by long streaks of single-digit scores.

The T20I series between India and Afghanistan will kick off on January 11 in Mohali; the second game will be played on January 14 in Indore; and the series will conclude on January 17 in Bengaluru.

The Afghanistan series is India’s last bilateral T20I series before the T20 World Cup, which starts on June 1.

India’s Squad for three T20Is against Afghanistan: Rohit Sharma (Captain), Shubman Gill, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Virat Kohli, Tilak Varma, Rinku Singh, Jitesh Sharma (wk), Sanju Samson (wk), Shivam Dube, Washington Sundar, Axar Patel, Ravi Bishnoi, Kuldeep Yadav, Arshdeep Singh, Avesh Khan and Mukesh Kumar.

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