ICC World Cup 2019: Who will be India’s 3rd opener?
Very soon, the most awaited cricketing event of the year, the ICC World Cup 2019, will commence in England. Without any exception, every team around the world has worked towards developing a team worthy of winning the prestigious trophy.
Now even though cricket is a team game, there are certain key areas that are more important than others. The opening slot is one such area.
As important as it is to have good batting depth, it is imperative to have an excellent opening pair to give the team a solid start. Beyond any shadow of a doubt, the openers play a very vital role in any team's success.
In this regard, India are blessed that they have the world's best opening pair stitching together excellent opening partnerships one after another. In the last few years, the Hit-Man Rohit Sharma and 'Gabbar; Shikhar Dhawan have been on a roll, scoring heavily across continents and against every bowling attack.
Yet, the Indian team management will ideally want to have a third opener available considering the length and intensity of the tournament and also because of the fact that it will be played in England.
Even though the English pitches have flattened up considerably in recent years, they still have sufficient swing and bounce to trouble the batsmen, especially those from the sub-continent. You can never rule out one or both of them getting bogged down in the face of quality bowling.
Therefore, it makes a lot of sense to have a ready replacement in case of a poor run of form from either opener in the all-important World Cup.
Here's a look at the players who could be considered as backup options for the opener's slot at the showpiece event:
The current Indian vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane seemed out of contention for the World Cup after a string of mediocre performances in South Africa last year. However, a very recent announcement by MSK Prasad, India’s chairman of selectors, about Rahane's chances would have given him a sliver of hope.
Rahane's solid batting technique will definitely be a big asset to the team in the challenging English conditions. Another excellent aspect of Rahane’s presence would be that not only can he play as an opener, but he can also strengthen the middle order by batting No. 4 to solve India's biggest puzzle.
Though KL Rahul is currently out of the Indian team in every format due to his recent dismal form, there has never been any doubt about his skills. Virat Kohli has always shown a willingness to have Rahul as a third opener, but the excellent show by the top order has never necessitated trying this out.
Unfortunately, the Karnataka opener has not been able to do much in the shortest format to impress the selectors. Currently, he is playing for India A and trying to regain his Midas touch. Should he rediscover his form, he will certainly be a solid contender for the 3rd opening player.
The 19-year-old Prithvi Shaw has already been marked as the ‘next big thing’ in Indian Cricket. In fact, on several occasions, his superlative performances have had cricket gurus comparing him with batting legend Sachin Tendulkar.
Shaw has had a great start to his international cricketing career, scoring a quick fiery century to become the youngest Indian to score a hundred on Test debut.
The chances of Shaw being included in the World Cup squad are extremely slim considering he has absolutely no experience in ODIs. But the game of cricket is quite unpredictable; an unexpected call-up for the Australia series, or an excellent performance at the upcoming IPL combined with unfortunate injuries to the regulars, could result in the young Shaw opening the batting for India at the World Cup.
Ideally, it will be perfect to see the regular and flamboyant openers Rohit and Dhawan continuing their excellent form to win matches for Team India. However, the team management cannot risk anything at the marquee event, and need every box to be ticked - especially the very important opening slot.
Therefore, it is extremely vital that the right third opener is selected for the mega tournament. If that doesn't happen, it could be well be the reason for India bowing out early.