My Thoughts

Who are India’s openers for T20 WC?

Posted on: August 2, 2022

The one position India have been experimenting a lot over the past 18 months has been the opening slot. Like all the formats in cricket openers are key in T20 as well. In the last World Cup, India openers failed to provide good starts in two most important games which meant that India struggled to put up good totals on the board. While experimenting and giving opportunities to players is fine, with the tournament so close India do need to identify who their 3 opening candidates will be.

In the last 18 months, India have tried as much as 11 different openers. In the ongoing series against West Indies as well India is experimenting with Suryakumar Yadav at the opening slot. It is strange that they are trying to get Sky to open as he just scored a brilliant hundred playing in the middle order against England last month. Rohit Sharma who will for sure open in the World Cup has played the most games as opener since January 2021. He has had 20 tries at the top followed by Ishan Kishen who has played 16 games. KL Rahul who when fit might be the other first choice opener has played 11 games.

Apart from these 3 India have randomly tried multiple people at the top. Ruturaj Gaikwad has played 8 games at the top, followed by Dhawan with 4. India have also tried Rishabh Pant, Deepak Hooda, Sanju Samson, Prithvi Shaw, Suryakumar Yadav and even Virat Kohli at the top over that time. It does seem like Shikhar Dhawan might not be part of India’s T20 plans anymore as he wasn’t selected for any series this year in that format. Prithvi Shaw who just played one game and got out for a duck also does not seem to be in the radar. The rest though have been with the squad at various times over the past 18 months.

While it is okay to play around with the middle order and given them a taste of various positions in the batting order, the opening should always be a specialist one. If India thinks Ishan Kishen is their main option, they should be playing him at the top with Rohit in every game he is fit and available. I don’t see a reason why there was a need to disrupt Suryakumar Yadav’s middle order success to fit him in as an opener. This not only disrupts his rhythm, it also makes him lose confidence with some low scores. Yadav has been playing in the middle order in IPL and India and that is where he has had most of his success. So changing that isn’t going to help him, even for this one series.

This also upsets the rhythm for Rohit himself as he has been playing with so many different openers over the last year or so. As a combination you would like to open with someone you are comfortable with and it does seem like India quite unnecessarily have been meddling with this position. Ishan Kishen has played 16 games as an opener over the past 18 months and has 508 runs at 32 at a SR of 135. Good record in this format and should be playing as an opener when Rahul isn’t available.

This exactly was the way India approached the WC 2019 and T20 WC 2021 and what it created was a chaos and a inconsistent team combination which fell flat at the most important juncture of the tournament. While juggling the middle order is okay to provide players with chances and opportunities to spend time at the middle, the opening combination needs to always be settled. With KL Rahul not being available due to fitness and COVID, India should take opportunity to play Ishan Kishen as much as possible at the opening slot. Ruturaj Gaikwad who has played 8 games as an opener is also someone who could have been given a longer run.

The World Cup is just 2 months away and the right players aren’t getting opportunities to play. Unless India are genuinely thinking that Suryakumar Yadav is a opening candidate, he should not be playing that that spot. I feel India’s best bet at the top would be Ishan Kishen, Ruturaj Gaikwad, KL Rahul and off course Rohit Sharma. These are the only 4 players who should be playing at the top with more opportunities to get the necessary practice. The Asia cup squad would give us better insight as to what the team management and the selectors are thinking but again so far the combinations the team has been playing have been muddled.

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