Virat Kohli is adamant that England are the “team to beat” at this year’s T20 World Cup as he rejected suggestions from his opposing captain Eoin Morgan that India are firm favourites to prevail on home soil.
Both the England captain and his understudy Jos Buttler have highlighted India’s supremacy in their own conditions as a major reason for thinking they will go all the way in the global showcase that they will host in October and November.
Yet, on the eve of the first of five T20s between the teams in a series that has been billed as a dress rehearsal for the tournament, Kohli said that England’s status as the world’s top-ranked side in the format puts a target on their back.
“I actually think it’s England who will be the team to beat. They’re the number one side in the world and the prime focus will be on them in this World Cup,” said Kohli.
“All the other teams will be wary of the strengths that they bring on to the park and every other team would agree with what I say. It’s England who are the favourites and that will not change regardless of how they think.”
Morgan has indicated he would welcome pitches conducive to spin at the Narendra Modi Stadium at Ahmedabad, which will host all five matches, despite the repeated struggles of the Test side against the turning ball.
Ravichandran Ashwin finished as the leading wicket-taker – with 32 scalps at a spectacular average of 14.71 – as he tormented a number of England’s batsmen but he is once again conspicuous by his absence in India’s T20 squad.
It has been more than three and a half years since Ashwin last featured in the limited-overs formats, with Washington Sundar ahead of him in the pecking order, and Kohli played down the chances of a comeback.
“Washington has been doing really well for us so you cannot have two players of the same discipline playing in one spot,” he said.
“Unless Washy has a drastically horrible season and things go south for him…the question has to be asked with some kind of logic as well. It’s easy to ask a question but you should have a logical explanation to it.”
Kohli also revealed Shikhar Dhawan is likely to miss out with Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul set to be the preferred opening pair.
But he’s delighted to welcome back seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar into the fold following a thigh injury.