The opening combination has a massive role to play in the success of franchises in the Indian Premier League (IPL). Being a T20 tournament, top-order batters can cause a lot of damage to the opposition if they exploit six overs of the powerplay when the field restrictions are on.
Even in the IPL 2022 clash between the Mumbai Indians (MI) and the Punjab Kings (PBKS) on Wednesday, the opening duo played a significant part in Punjab’s win. Batting first after losing the toss, Mayank Agarwal (52) and Shikhar Dhawan (70) added 97 in 9.3 overs. The big stand helped them reach 198-5, with Punjab eventually winning the game by 12 runs.
IPL 2022: 3 interesting opening pairs
Over the years, the IPL has seen some magnificent opening partnerships, from Chris Gayle-Virat Kohli to Faf du Plessis-Ruturaj Gaikwad. This season, there have been a few experimental opening pairs tried out by some of the franchises. Here’s a look at three surprising opening combinations this season.
#1 Faf du Plessis-Anuj Rawat (RCB)
With Faf du Plessis joining the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) as captain, it was widely expected that he would open the batting with Kohli. The former skipper opened the innings in IPL 2021 as well with Devdutt Padikkal. Even in 2016, the year he smashed a record 973 runs, he opened the batting with Chris Gayle.
Bangalore, though, have decided to go in with Du Plessis and the young Anuj Rawat as their opening pair. And, from what has been on display so far, the combination is working out pretty well for the franchise. Du Plessis and Rawat began by adding 50 runs against Punjab in their first match. The duo featured in half-century partnerships against the Rajasthan Royals (RR) and the Mumbai Indians as well.
Both Du Plessis and Rawat have registered one fifty each in the ongoing Indian Premier League so far. The consistency expected, especially of the captain, has not been there. However, as a pair, Du Plessis-Rawat has helped RCB get off to a number of solid starts. This is one of the reasons Bangalore have registered three wins in five matches.
#2 Matthew Wade-Shubman Gill (GT)
Yes, the Gujarat Titans (GT) suffered a massive blow as explosive England opener Jason Roy decided to pull out of IPL 2022 citing bio-bubble fatigue. Given his reputation, Roy looked set to open the innings with Shubman Gill after being picked by GT at the auction for ₹2 crore. But the Englishman's decision left the franchise in a lurch.
The decision to open with Matthew Wade following Roy’s exit ahead of the tournament has not worked for the franchise so far. Gill has been superb at one end, scoring 84 off 46 against the Delhi Capitals (DC) and 96 off 59 against Punjab. At the other end, though, Wade has struggled, registering scores of 30, one, six and 19. He just hasn't looked comfortable in the middle. The highest opening stand for GT after four IPL 2022 matches has been 32, which they managed against PBKS.
Wade was picked up at the auction on the basis of his exploits as a finisher for Australia in the T20 World Cup in the UAE last year. The left-hander has clearly looked uncomfortable in the role of opener for GT, although he does bat in the top order for the Hobart Hurricanes in the Big Bash League (BBL). Will Gujarat continue to back Wade at the top of the order or move him to the finishing role? Only time will tell.
#3 Ajinkya Rahane-Venkatesh Iyer (KKR)
Many critics were surprised when the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) decided to purchase the out-of-form Ajinkya Rahane at the mega auction in February for ₹1 crore. They went one step ahead and assigned him to the key position of Venkatesh Iyer's opening partner. Things began well as Rahane top-scored for the franchise with 44 off 34 in KKR’s six-wicket win over defending champions Chennai Super Kings in the season opener.
Since then, it has been the same old tale of struggle for Rahane. In the last four matches, he has registered scores of nine, 12, seven and eight, looking completely out of touch. Rahane’s eight-run knock against the Delhi Capitals came off 14 balls. It was a bizarre innings as he was given out off the first two deliveries, but he used DRS to survive. The right-handed batter nicked the next one but DC players did not hear anything and didn't appeal. Eventually, he hit one straight up in the air off Khaleel Ahmed.
To make matters worse for Kolkata, Venkatesh Iyer has also not looked in great rhythm. He has registered only one fifty in five matches and, even in that game, he did not seem fluent. In the other four matches, his scores have been 16, 10, three and 18. KKR’s highest opening stand in IPL 2022 so far has been 43 in their opening game against CSK. Will Kolkata look to make a change at the top of the order or will they back Rahane’s experience?
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