Apart from skipper Rohit Sharma, India have tried six different openers in 2022. And to think, the incumbent first-choice opener, vice-captain KL Rahul, hasn’t even played a T20I for India this year – the year of the T20 World Cup two and half months away in Australia.
A number of batters have so far auditioned for the opening slot in India’s T20I team. But come the first game vs Pakistan at MCG, India will need to know who their best candidate is.
Or even before that – in the Asia Cup, which is of T20 format this time, later in August, we may get a clear idea of who the management has earmarked to be Rohit Sharma’s opening partner.
Here are the three frontline opening options:
As mentioned above, KL Rahul is the incumbent opening partner of Rohit Sharma in T20Is. Injury and rest have prevented Rahul from playing a T20I for India this year and that opened doors for six other alternatives.
But, Rahul, who is currently recovering from hernia surgery and then covid that saw him miss the West Indies and Zimbabwe tours, is expected to mark his return via the Asia Cup and take the opening position straightaway with the management looking to finalize their best XI and 15.
KL Rahul had another big IPL season with the bat – the Lucknow Super Giants skipper amassed 616 runs at an average of 51 but his strike rate of 135 came under criticism.
Virat Kohli is struggling for runs and big scores – there is absolutely no doubt about it. He struggled in large part of IPL 2022 – scoring 341 runs at a timid strike rate of 115 – and followed it up with a horrific tour of England where he couldn’t go past 20 in any of his 6 innings, and since then has been on a long-ish break.
So, don’t be surprised if the Indian management flips things around and you see Kohli walking out to open alongside Rohit Sharma. It will not be something new: the last time these two opened together was in March 2021 vs England, and Kohli smashed 80 and Rohit scored 64. Then, Kohli said that he liked this opening combo but KLR was later given the chance to open with Sharma at the T20 WC in UAE.
Kohli has all of his 5 IPL centuries while opening the batting. It is a position where he will have the advantage of the powerplay restrictions and can go all guns blazing.
Rishabh Pant’s T20 career hasn’t flourished yet as much as everyone had expected following his IPL exploits. He has now cemented his place in India’s Test and ODI teams but his T20I numbers don’t do justice to his talent and ability: 53 matches, average of 23 and strike rate of 125. These are mediocre numbers for any middle-order batter, not least by Pant’s standards.
With the competition for places in the middle and lower middle-order heating up, Pant was also promoted to open in a couple of games vs England but there he managed only 27 runs at a strike rate of 135.
With Kohli and Rahul coming back in Asia Cup and Suryakumar, Dinesh Karthik in surreal form, plus Hardik and Jadeja as indispensable all-rounders, India could do one final push for Rishabh Pant as an opener in their T20 side. That might click well for the left-hander.