Opening Woes for India

As T20 World Cup 2021 is coming closer, the speculations over team combinations are growing darker. The teams are rotating various players at different positions to figure out the best formula for the marquee event. Although India has grown as a formidable world unit with multiple options for various positions, the problem of plenty is haunting the Men in Blue.

The same thing happened in 2019 when the Kohli led side picked inexperienced players in their World Cup squad and it was highly criticized. This time, the problem however lies in the opening combination rather than middle order. Rohit Sharma, the vice-captain of the team is confirmed to open but finding his companion is an uphill task.

The problem of India having an orthodox mindset in the T20 World Cup has been there to see since 2018. Where teams like West Indies and England have ensured a complete overhaul of their squad, India has always considered T20Is to be an extension to their ODI side. However, lately, the team management has tried to fit in the IPL stars into the team to ensure they have enough firepower, but despite their efforts, they still don’t have a fixed opening pair.

Here are the choices that India posses:

By going with the pattern Team India has followed for the last few months, Rohit is a certain choice as an opener. First Kohli, Hardik Pandya and Jadeja are also certain in the starting line-up. However, the other three will depend a lot on who will pair the Mumbai Indians skipper at the top.

Shikhar Dhawan

If India decides to have experienced Dhawan at the top with Rohit, it provides great balance with a left-right combination. However, the southpaw hasn’t scored at a brisk rate in recent years. His Strike Rate has been at 113.33 with an average of 25.09. Also, he has only two fifties in 21 matches during that period.

Although, the Delhi lad comes with an experience of 68 games, the way T20 cricket has changed over the years, having a slow start can be a burden for the Men in Blue. With India expecting to post a total of above 200 in any of the knockouts, Dhawan’s strike rate of 107.81 while batting first since 2019 can put a lot of pressure on Rohit Sharma.

KL Rahul

When India tried to change their T20I formula, KL Rahul played a major role in revamping their batting style. He ensured that he starts bamboozling since ball one to allow Rohit adequate time to get settled. While opening the batting since 2019, he has scored 7 fifties at the top in 20 games with a strike rate of 138. He has played some match-winning knocks and has put the opposition under pressure straight away.

KL Rahul has also batted at number four in past and in case Kohli and company decide to open with someone else, the Punjab Kings skipper still presents a strong case of batting in the middle order. However, the stumper would prefer to open as he has mentioned in past.

Virat Kohli

Virat Kohli opened with Rohit in the last T20I vs England earlier this year. He scored a tremendous fifty and scored an unbeaten 80 which was extremely impressive. The skipper also mentioned after the game that he would consider opening if it helps the team combination and it might be an option India might think of.

Opening with the skipper and his deputy allows India to have the likes of Surya Kumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant, KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer along with the all-rounders in the middle order. These players can score boundaries quite freely with Virat playing the role of a sheet anchor. However, there is another factor attached that if both Rohit and Virat will take time to settle, India won’t be able to capitalize on the powerplay.

Ishan Kishan

Ishan Kishan is the least experienced and the youngest contender of the debatable opening slot. The southpaw has impressed everyone with his fearless style of play in his short career. He hits a boundary off every 5th ball and has scored 80 runs in 3 innings at a strike rate of 145.45. The windfall of playing him at the top is the time he will provide Rohit to get settled and his ability to score boundaries from the first ball. He is a wicket-keeper and having him also allows India to rethink their batting order if Rishabh Pant doesn’t fit in.

Although, having Kishan to open looks fascinating in the first place but having an unripened player for a big tournament has its limitations. India travelled with Vijay Shankar in the 2019 World Cup and that turned out to be a disastrous move. However, if India wants a left-right combination at the top with Dhawan not being there, Jharkhand stumper is a promising option.

Prithvi Shaw

Another promising youngster who has made his name in a short span is the prodigy from Mumbai, Prithvi Shaw. The 21-year-old set the world on fire with his courageous style in the Sri Lanka tour, IPL and the domestic circuit. However, in his only T20I outing, he failed to open his account and got out on a golden duck.

In the 6 ODIs he has played, Shaw has scored at a strike rate of 113.85 with a boundary off every 4.8 balls. The Mumbai opener has strengthened his case for the showpiece event but his inexperience at the highest level can be a rationale to leave him out.

Conclusion:

At the moment, having KL Rahul open with Rohit and Virat coming at three looks like India’s best top three considering the destruction these three can do. Also, this line-up looks settled and experienced. Dhawan is too unhurried for the modern-day T20Is. Ishan Kishan and Prithvi Shaw are very much untested. However, KL Rahul has to play a set role of playing fearless cricket at the top with Rohit and Virat set to play big innings. If that happens, Team India has a real opportunity of finally clinching a world title this year.

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