My Thoughts

Posts Tagged ‘Ruturaj Gaikwad

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.

Five years and four T20I games is all Sanju Samson has to show for in his international career. A talented Wicket Keeping batter from Kerala, Sanju first got his chance as a 20 year old in Zimbabwe. He did not cover himself with glory there but again it was understandable due it being his first series as an Indian national. He then went on to give some stellar performances in IPL for Rajasthan Royals which forced the selectors to give him another chance in the New Zealand tour earlier this year.

Samson got just 2 games in the series and he wasn’t successful in the two outings against New Zealand. The biggest problem though is that though is four chances over 5 years isn’t much for a young player. Sanju Samson is a gifted hitter and an amazing talent who also gives you an added advantage of being a wicket-keeper as well. He has been amazing in the IPL for multiple seasons and has once again begun the 2020 season in stellar fashion.

The Indian selectors and team management haven’t shown any patience with young players in the XI over the past few years. Different players have different yardsticks and the selection has been unfair on certain domestic talents. Karun Nair’s name comes into mind immediately. Only in India we would see a player whose last innings was a 300 and does not play in a Test XI for 4 years. Manish Pandey is another player whose career has been mismanaged. People talking about his slow batting in ODIs etc need to understand that he is a brilliant player and a fielder and should be part of Indian plans for all formats of the game.

Sanju Samson falls under same category. As an amazingly gifted batter he needs to be given a long rope in limited overs formats. His FC average of 37 isn’t that great but he is just 25 and I am sure he will make amends on that too before he ends his career. While India’s T20 team has been struggling for hitters over the past few years it is strange to see them ignore such talents at the highest level.

India’s current LO wicket keeper is Rishabh Pant. While Pant himself is an incredible talent his performance in LO formats hasn’t been very consistent. He for sure has earned his stripes as a Test player with hundreds on first tours to Australia and England but that hasn’t translated to LO performances. In 39 innings so far in LO format Pant averages 23. He made his debut in 2018 and has already played 44 games. There is nothing wrong in backing a player like Rishabh Pant but again other players need to be extended the same opportunities. The chances and selections need to fair. This is where Sanju Samson hasn’t been backed by the management yet.

Shreyas Iyer went through the same but again the Delhi Capitals captain made a stunning comeback after the world cup and has cemented his place in the LO teams. The Indian fans are already calling for Shubman Gill, Ruturaj Gaikwad and Devdutt Padikkal to be picked for the National team but again we need to make sure we do not ignore an entire generation of talent for the future. Sanju Samson needs to be given a fair go and I hope the selectors/team management take cognizance of that. It is all good to have great talent at the domestic level but if they aren’t utilised it does not mean much.


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