ICC World Cup 2019: Analysing whether India needs a 3rd opener in its squad
While the question about a 3rd opener might raise a few eyebrows, it is one that really needs to be answered. Team India recently lost the ODI series against Australia at home. The team management has failed to find the solutions to the problems they were trying to address since a year now.
Though Virat Kohli and the management have filled most of the spots in the playing 11, the team is still uncertain with various combinations and the extras that are going to tour England for the World Cup later this year.
Team India has a settled opening combination of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan. The duo has been amazing for more than half a decade now. They have scored runs all over the world. Currently, they have added 4541 runs between them at a healthy average of 45.41 and have breached the 3-figure mark 15 times.
Rohit and Dhawan have surpassed even the great Sehwag-Tendulkar combo in terms of runs and century partnerships. They might end up being the second most successful pair ever in ODI cricket. The first spot is held by our very own Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar.
So when the two openers are in such tremendous form, it’s obvious that they are going to start in all the games of the World Cup and unless of an injury, the pair will undoubtedly play all the games for India at the mega event.
So, is there really a need for a 3rd opener just for the sake of it? The legendary Australian side didn’t have a third regular opener in their 1999 World Cup squad as they had a certain pair in Adam Gilchrist and Mark Waugh. They used Darren Lehmann as a floater option in that tournament.
India has the 3rd opener in KL Rahul. However, the Karnataka batsman has failed to deliver consistently in the opportunities that he has got so far. He only played a single game in the Australian series where he failed to make his presence felt. It’s unsure what the team expects of him.
KL Rahul won’t play in the World Cup unless one of Rohit Sharma or Shikhar Dhawan misses out due to unforeseen circumstances. So India will be better off using the 3rd opener slot to accommodate someone else in the squad. The matches in the World Cup are well spaced and teams get at least a 4 to 7 days of gap between two consecutive games. Hence, the chances of an injury are rare.
And in a worst-case scenario, if a need arises for someone else to open the innings, anybody from the middle order can take up the responsibility. It could be someone like Ambati Rayudu (If he is part of the squad) as he has opened in the past for India and even for the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL.
Dinesh Karthik too is a decent option at the top of the order. He has even scored a 100 in England opening the innings in the past. Someone like Vijay Shankar can be used as an opener if extremities are of that level. Shankar has predominantly played in the top order in his List-A career and has even opened a few times in the domestic competitions. Pant also can be a viable option for this role, provided he is part of the squad.
The main agenda is to utilize the 3rd opener spot to accommodate an extra middle-order batsman or a 4th seamer as there might be a need for it given the conditions in England. The spot can even be used to have all the 4 all-rounders in Vijay Shankar, Hardik Pandya, Kedar Jadhav, and Ravindra Jadeja in the squad, given the seriousness of the tournament. Also, to add to it KL Rahul’s inconsistency and form gives another reason to have this change.
All the players are now preparing for the 12th edition of the IPL, bound to begin on the 23rd of March. The tentative cut off for all the cricketing boards to submit their squads is April 23 and the first half of the IPL will serve as an audition for some to be a part of the World Cup in England.
KL Rahul could be considered only if he is in tremendous touch in the IPL, else he might make way for someone else in the squad.