Cricket-India's Kohli bids to sign off on T20 leadership with global title

FILE PHOTO: Cricket - Fifth Twenty20 International - India v England - Narendra Modi Stadium, Ahmedabad, India - March 20, 2021 India's Virat Kohli celebrates the wicket of England's Ben Stokes REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Virat Kohli will step down as India's 20-over skipper after the Twenty20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates and Oman and the talisman could not have hoped for a better setting as he takes another stab at leading the side to a global title.

Kohli, also India's batting mainstay, has captained the team across formats for about five years but recently announced his decision to relinquish Twenty20 leadership to better manage his workload.

Never shy at showing his emotions on the field, the 32-year-old has led India to numerous successes in bilateral cricket at home and abroad but has never won an ICC trophy as captain - be it the 2017 Champions Trophy, the 2019 50-overs World Cup or the ICC Test Championship.

"For India, the message ... is simple - do it for Virat Kohli," former India batsman Suresh Raina wrote in an ICC column for the T20 World Cup.

While an ICC trophy has eluded Kohli as a leader, he will have plenty of experience to tap into with the addition of team mentor Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who led India to the inaugural World T20 trophy in 2007 and the 50-over title four years later.

Kohli's men will also benefit from the exposure of playing the Indian Premier League for three weeks in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.

Like the ICC event, the popular IPL was also shifted to the UAE due to the surge of COVID-19 cases in India and it allowed the full Indian squad to get acclimatised to the sluggish wickets in the region.

The batting will heavily depend on the top three of Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Kohli while the bowling has a dazzling mix of talent in both the spin and pace departments.

The only worry for India would be the fitness of all-rounder Hardik Pandya. His inability to bowl during the recently concluded IPL forced the selectors to replace spin-bowling all-rounder Axar Patel with seamer Shardul Thakur in the squad.

India will begin their T20 World Cup campaign against bitter neighbours Pakistan on Sunday with New Zealand, Afghanistan and two as-yet-unidentified qualifiers making up the rest of the Group 2 of the Super 12 stage.

The tournament will also mark the end of Ravi Shastri's tenure as India's head coach and victory in the Nov. 14 final in Dubai could double up as a farewell gift to the former all-rounder.

Kohli was confident that future cricketers will reap the benefits of the work culture that he and Shastri had put in place and their success was beyond "titles and tournaments".

"But, yes winning an ICC tournament will definitely be a wonderful moment for all of us, for him as coach and me as captain," Kohli, who also quit as the captain of his IPL franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore, told reporters.

"It'll be an amazing achievement and something that we're absolutely motivated to do so and we'll give everything that we have."

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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