Virat Kohli drops hint about opening combination for Champions Trophy
India's next ODI match will certainly see a different combination than its last ODI that saw KL Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane open the batting.
What’s the story?
The Indian cricket team wrapped up their last 50-overs assignment before the Champions Trophy with a nervy but enjoyable 2 – 1 series win over England. Nervy as the visitors were not willing to yield an inch but enjoyable because all six innings’ in the three ODIs saw more than 300 runs scored.
India scored 1053 runs in total over the three matches but their openers KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane (1 match) contributed a total of only 37 runs to the cause (a meagre 3.5 percent of the total runs scored).
But Indian captain Virat Kohli was quick to dispell any views that this might be an absolute crisis, saying it’s only a matter of gaining some confidence.
"Whatever areas or concerns we have, we'll address them. First we didn't have an opening problem, it was an issue with the middle order. Now the middle order has been sorted. We have very good openers with us. It's not a case where we have to find openers. You have to give chances for people to come back into form. I think if we back our openers and give them confidence, it's all about one or two innings in international cricket. Once you get the flow, everything clicks." Kohli was quoted as saying.
He would even drop a massive hit about the potential opening combination for the Champions Trophy.
In case you didn’t know...
India are defending their Champions Trophy crown from 4 years ago in England this year. In 2013, the Indian openers played a key role in helping India claim the trophy with Shikhar Dhawan playing a starring role ending the tournament as the top run-getter and subsequently being adjudged the player of the tournament.
With injuries affecting Ajinkya Rahane, KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan at different points of times in the past couple of months, India have been forced to chop and change and they have tried a whole number of different combinations.
The heart of the matter
While the openers’ failure against England was incredibly glaring given the number of runs that were scored, it is not a one-off incident. KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan were the main culprits against England, but only a couple of months ago, it was Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane against New Zealand.
With the team scheduled to play no more 50-over games until the Champions Trophy, the team management will have to decide on the best opening combination using different metrics than recent form in ODIs.
Virat Kohli did leave the reports with a parting shot, saying, "The Champions Trophy (in 2013) is where we saw Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan as an opening pair revelation."
Rohit Sharma will walk back into this team when he is fit, but his opening partner might be any of Rahane, Rahul or Dhawan. If one reads between the lines of what Kohli just said, we might just see Shikhar Dhawan being given another chance.
India will look to continue the momentum by beating England in a three-match T20I series before getting back to Test cricket for a couple of months. When the Champions Trophy comes around in June, one can only hope the Indians remain equally comfortable with the 50-overs format.
The team management is tasked with making an unbelievably tough decision. The situation looks worst for Ajinkya Rahane, who will almost certainly not open alongside Rohit Sharma. KL Rahul has been heavily backed by Virat Kohli and Anil Kumble, but he too just went through his first failure in international cricket.
Despite his obvious shortcomings, Shikhar Dhawan has proven to be a colossal run-maker in big tournaments and should get the nod to open the batting along with Rohit Sharma in the Champions Trophy.