Aakash Chopra and Wasim Jaffer want Virat Kohli to bat in this position for RCB in IPL 2022
There is a wave of anticipation around Faf du Plessis‘ union at the top with the mighty Virat Kohli, but former India cricketer Aakash Chopra believes, the ex Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) skipper should consider moving back to No.3 for the 2022 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Chopra says Kohli batting one down will allow RCB to cover better for the unavoidable absence of the great AB de Villiers and solidify the team’s in-transition middle-order following the retirement of the South African legend.
In an interaction with ESPNcricinfo, the cricketer turned commentator stressed that there was “musical chairs” in play around the No.3 spot last season in RCB camp after Virat Kohli decided to move up to the top of the order and opened the innings alongside young Devdutt Padikkal.
With RCB unable to get Padikkal back from the IPL 2022 mega auction, it is expected that the newly appointed captain and experienced opener Du Plessis will form a solid pairing at the top with Kohli. But Chopra disagrees with that line of thinking.
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“You will want Virat Kohli to take the game deep” – Aakash Chopra
For Chopra, the other benefit of Virat Kohli batting No.3 is that the great batter will be able to hold one end up and bat deep into matches for RCB, helping them maximise all stages of the innings.
“Last year, when Virat Kohli was opening the batting, a game of musical chairs was being played for the number three spot,” he was quoted as saying. “They stopped at Srikar Bharat at the end but then sent him at number four too. We’ve seen this a lot in RCB’s recent history that they shuffle the batting order a lot, but if you can identify the crucial positions beforehand, it would be better.”
“Also, keep in mind that there’s no AB de Villiers. When he was there, they were assured he would handle the situation from number four to five. Of course, you have Dinesh Karthik, but he isn’t AB de Villiers. You will want Virat Kohli to take the game deep and stay on the pitch till the 14th or 15th over. So I’ll say Virat Kohli at three,” he added.
Chopra’s opinion found support from another ex India Test opener Wasim Jaffer, who was part of the Punjab Kings (PBKS) support staff till IPL 2021 as a batting consultant. Jaffer said No.3 is a spot where Virat Kohli can pace his innings the best.
“I prefer Virat Kohli batting at number three. I believe he can pace the game very well from there, whether he bats on the powerplay or later. He’s somebody who takes some time initially, but then his strike rate progressively goes up,” Jaffer said.
“In the powerplay, it seems as if he forces himself a bit to hit by using the crease, which I don’t think is his game. He’s obviously been successful as well, but I think he plays better at number three,” he added.
The numbers, however, tell an entirely different story. Virat Kohli has a significantly greater record as an opener in IPL than at No.3. The right-hand batter has an IPL career strike-rate of only 123.84 over 85 innings at one-down, which rises up to 136.67 across 76 matches as an opener.
Kohli is also currently going through a spin decline in his overall T20 game. He has had a strike-rate of only 105.35 against spin since the start of IPL 2020. Batting him at No.3 in such a state could well prove hazardous to RCB’s chances.