The Indian team was hit with the unfortunate news that Shikhar Dhawan had to leave the squad owing to his wife’s illness. While he has been released, this has left the opener slot free for the taking. India does have good back-up players to bank on, predominantly Rahane and KL Rahul. Who should get the free opener slot in this situation?
Rahul is a natural top-order batsman and is someone who can get going. He has a range of strokes in the book and the Australians are one of his favourite opponents. He is also a good ODI player at home and can get good starts when required. That being said, he had a very poor Sri Lanka limited overs series, getting out without making a single fifty or hundred.
A lot of critics have been baying for Rahul’s name to be dropped from the limited overs squad but the captain and management seem to have faith in him. He should try to validate this opportunity and produce something that will warrant his place in the team.
Rahane is one of the most improved batsmen for India over the past three or four years. He has become a mainstay of the Test team but has not been able to produce that form in the limited overs format. He does have a decent record nevertheless, with 19 half-centuries and 3 centuries in 77 innings.
Rahane did have a good limited overs tour of the West Indies as well, previously this year. However, if he does have to open for India, he will be doing so with a lack of match practice because he did not get to feature against the Lankans.
That being said, Rahane will need to play out of his skin should he get picked on Sunday. It remains to be seen whether he can play well up the order and at least give a good selection headache.
While both the batsmen are assets, KL Rahul’s lack of form off late might just cause the team management to play with Rahane. Since there are three matches till Dhawan is back, the team might just shuffle the openers in case one of them underperforms.
By Rohit Nair