KL Rahul was a bit taken aback when asked if Virat Kohli, who struck his maiden T20I century during Asia Cup match against Afghanistan, should continue to bat as an opener going into the World Cup alongside Rohit Sharma. With Rohit Shama opting out of the inconsequential contest against Afghanistan, Kohli opened the batting with Rahul.
The question was loaded because if Kohli opens the batting, it would mean that Rahul, whose T20 batting approach is already under the scanner, would have to sit out. "Toh kya mai khud baith jaun? (So then should I sit out?)," a perplexed Rahul, obviously not one bit amused, counter-questioned.
The Indian vice-captain firmly believes that Kohli is not dependent on opening slot to get a huge score. "You get confidence if you play 2-3 innings, really happy that he could play that way. You all know Virat Kohli, you have been watching him for so many years, it is not like he will only score centuries if he opens the batting, if he bats at No.3, he can then also score centuries. It is all about roles and what role a certain player has," he added.
But no one can discount how the team gets a boost when their best batter scores runs. "Obviously, Virat scoring runs is a huge bonus for the team, and the way he played against Afghanistan, I know he is very very pleased. "He has been working on his game and that worked beautifully today. As a team, it is important for every player to get time out in the middle," the stand-in skipper said.
For Rahul, even during the period of lull over last three years, there had been no change in Kohli's work ethic or mindset. "Obviously, the celebration by Virat was more of relief. There has been no change in his mindset, attitude, and work ethic in the last 2-3 years. There has been no difference in the way he prepares for the game.
"He (Kohli) has always had that desire, I think we are also very obsessed with numbers, obsessed with those three digits and we think, if someone is scoring hundreds, then only he is in form. His contributions have been phenomenal in the last 2-3 years," said Rahul.
The hallmark of Kohli has always been striving for perfection in his pursuit of excellence, feels Rahul. "As a player, you always want to be perfect or you want to challenge yourself towards excellency, he has always been that player. Even during this phase, he has remained in the moment and he has worked on his game. That has been a learning for our entire group," Rahul said.
While Kohli himself was pleasantly surprised that his much awaited 71st hundred came in the shortest format, Rahul wasn't surprised at all. "In that dressing room, none of us is surprised to see what he has done today. I am sure this will give him even more confidence, he will obviously cherish this hundred and this will build a great confidence around the group as well," he added.