Ex-India batter Gautam Gambhir has made a shocking claim about Team India, saying that the Men in Blue cannot end their ICC trophy drought at the upcoming T20 World Cup Down Under unless they defeat the hosts and defending champions Australia.

The cricketer turned commentator’s comments came ahead of India’s T20I series against Australia at home which starts on Tuesday at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium in Mohali.

According to Gautam Gambhir, the three T20Is against Australia are crucial for Rohit Sharma and his men, considering they have performed well beyond expectations in multi-team events of late. While India crashed out in the Super 12 phase in last year’s T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Men in Blue suffered a similar fate at the recently held Asia Cup in Dubai where they were ousted in the Super 4 stage.

“I have said this earlier and I am saying this again. India cannot win the (T20) World Cup if they do not beat Australia” Gautam Gambhir said during an interaction organized by broadcaster Star Sports.

“I mean, look at the 2007 T20 World Cup. We defeated them in the semi-finals. In the 2011 ODI World Cup, we thrashed them in the quarter-finals. Australia is one of the most competitive teams out there and you will have to beat them if you want to win any competition,” he added.

Gautam Gambhir also had his say on whether Virat Kohli should open the innings for India, especially after the premier batter returned to form in grand style in the Asia Cup.

During India’s disastrous Asia Cup campaign, it was Virat Kohli who shone brightly for the national team, scoring 276 runs, including two fifties and a hundred in five matches. What’s more, the Delhi-born batter ended his long wait for an international century with his 122 not out against Afghanistan in India’s last game in Dubai.

Kohli’s ton in the tournament came while opening the batting for India and though his overall strike rate during the competition was a highly impressive 147.59, during his innings against Afghanistan it rose to 200. Since then, demands for Kohli to open for India have escalated.

But Gautam Gambhir who coached KL Rahul during his association with Lucknow Super Giants during the Indian Premier League (IPL), reckons that coach Rahul Dravid and the team’s think tank would be making a huge mistake if they elevated Virat Kohli to the opening slot. Gambhir instead stressed that KL Rahul has done wonderfully well for India in the past and he should pair captain Rohit Sharma at the top of the order.

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“You know what happens in India? The moment someone starts doing very well, for example, when Virat Kohli scored a hundred in the last game, we all start forgetting what Rahul and Rohit have done over a long period of time,” Gautam Gambhir stated.

“When you talk about Kohli opening the batting, imagine what happens to KL Rahul… Imagine the amount of insecurity he (Rahul) must be feeling. Imagine if he gets a low score in the first game, there will be another debate on whether Kohli should open in the next game,” Gautam Gambhir elaborated.

“Imagine KL Rahul going into the World Cup thinking, ‘what if I don’t score runs against Pakistan? What if I get replaced by Virat Kohli?’ You don’t want that. We should start thinking about how India can flourish, rather than certain individuals,” Gautam Gambhir signed off.

Similar views were shared by Australian great Matthew Hayden who said that India should not tinker much with their batting order before backing Virat Kohli to bat at the No.3 position because he has scored most of his runs there and not as an opening batsman.

“And this great debate around Virat batting up, GG (Gambhir) and I have already had this over the last couple of days, there’s no way that he has to open the batting, he has to bat at number 3, simple as that. And again, it’s another one of those things that you don’t want to let the door open the discussion on this,” Matthew Hayden said at the same event.

“You don’t want to have a doubt, you don’t want to have KL Rahul in the masterful form that he’s been in of late and Rohit Sharma who is captain of the team thinking ‘I’ve got to kind of watch my spot here that you know I’m an opening batsmen and my job is to play with freedom’ and unfortunately, when you start having these debates and you start thinking ‘oh maybe he, for his game, it should be him opening’, I’m sure he wouldn’t want to entertain that and put pressure. The one thing that you want to alleviate in the World Cup is the pressure. Just let the batting order rely on its own form and Virat Kohli can handle the situation. He’s a world class player, he can bat at three and he should bat at three in my opinion,” he added.