People in India try to find reason not to pick Kohli, he's my first pick: Ponting

Ponting feels Kohli should open the innings with captain Rohit Sharma at next month's T20 World Cup in the West Indies and USA.
Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) batter Virat Kohli.
Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) batter Virat Kohli. (File photo | PTI)

BENGALURU: Legendary Australian cricketer Ricky Pointing is perplexed why people in India try to "find reasons" to not pick Virat Kohli in the national side and said the charismatic former skipper would be his "first pick" for the T20 World Cup in the Americas.

Kohli's sublime form in the ongoing IPL has seen him leading the run-chart with 708 runs from 14 innings, though questions keep cropping up about his strike rate at the top of the order.

"He (Kohli) is the first pick for me for India. So, class and experience like that, you can't replace.

"It's funny with Virat. I think people in India just always try to find a reason not to pick him or a reason why he's maybe not as good as some of these other guys in the T20 game," the former Australian captain and Delhi Capitals head coach told ICC.

Ponting feels Kohli should open the innings with captain Rohit Sharma at next month's T20 World Cup in the West Indies and USA, as Suryakumar Yadav and the likes are quite capable of prepping up the run rate later in the innings.

"They (selectors) have still got a decision to make (on the opening pair) because (Yashasvi) Jaiswal is in that squad and one thing they haven't got a lot in their team is left-hand batters.

"So they've got a decision to make with Jaiswal (batting position), but I'm pretty sure that they'll go with Kohli and Rohit Sharma (as openers)," added Ponting.

"He can play his role at the top. And if you've got the right guys around him scoring (like) Suryakumar (Yadav)...Rohit Sharma's going to have a high strike rate. These other guys can go in there and play their way."

Kohli has scored a century, his eighth overall, this IPL season and five half-tons, a feat that has helped PCB make a dramatic turnaround to make the playoffs with six straight wins.

Despite all the talk about Kohli's strike rate of 155.60 this season, it has been his best in the 17 years that he has played for RCB, an indicator that he is improvising and trying his best to better it further.

Ponting, the three-time World Cup winner, said strike rates might have taken precedence over averages in recent times, but Kohli's utility to the Indian team can never be underestimated.

"The mantra I think for the teams three or four years ago, was making sure that someone at the top of the order made 80 or 100, even if it took them 60 balls, it didn't really matter.

"I think it's sort of shifting now to be more of a strike rate based game where you can have a massive impact on a game with a 40 off 15 balls rather than getting an 80 off 55 balls sort of thing," added Ponting.

Kohli played a pivotal role in India's campaign in the 2022 T20 World Cup in Australia, scoring an unbeaten 82 against Pakistan and a half-century against England in the semifinals, and Ponting said the stalwart was the most dependable player in crunch situations.

"I remember having this chat and some other chats I did for the ICC about there's some talk about Virat not being in their team only last year, but what happened when the big games come around, he was one of the guys who got the job done.

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