India vs Australia 2017: Rohit Sharma has been consistent as opener in T20Is but who should partner him at the top?

Who should be Rohit Sharma’s opening partner in T20 internationals? While Rohit has established himself at the top in the shortest format, the other end hasn’t been as stable. Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan have been India’s other frequent openers but haven’t been as consistent as Rohit. With the T20I series against Australia coming up, India have left out Rahane and have recalled Dhawan. KL Rahul is also a part of the squad. Whom would India prefer as an opener?

Let us look at how India’s openers have performed in T20Is. Here are the numbers:

Courtesy: ESPNCricinfo

As you can see, Rohit has by far been India’s best opener. His average is good for the format and has also maintained a good strike-rate. The pertinent point in analysing top-order batsmen in T20 cricket, one has to read the average along with the strike-rate. A strike-rate over 120 is good and an average should ideally be over 30. Considering those parameters, both Rahane and Dhawan haven’t had the best run in T20Is.

Dhawan has a more attacking aura when compared to Rahane but the numbers here tell a very different story. Even if you look at their overall stats in T20 cricket, they are quite similar. Rahane has scored 4167 runs at an average of 30.41 in 161 matches and has a strike-rate of 118.54 with a century and 33 fifties. Dhawan has scored 5040 runs at 31.11 in 184 matches with a strike-rate of 119.85 and has 37 fifties.

In One-Day Internationals (ODIs) too, India have had numerous opening combinations, but Dhawan and Rohit are the preferred pair for more than four years. Rahane has got the opportunity only when either of them has missed out and has done well in recent times. Meanwhile, Rahul is waiting in the wings. But in T20s, India haven’t yet had clarity on the partner for Rohit with both Rahane and Dhawan not maintaining consistency. Rahul could be a good option to try out as he has grown as a T20 player over the last year. The other option India could try at some point is recall Robin Uthappa, who has been one of the more successful openers in the format in India.

There may also be a clamour for Virat Kohli to open the batting with Rohit as he has a good record for the Royal Challengers Bangalore. He has done well at the spot in T20Is as well. However, he has had a greater impact at No. 3 and India need him there as the fulcrum of the batting. For years, Kohli has held that spot well and has anchored the Indian batting. He may do well in the Indian Premier League (IPL) but it makes greater sense to keep him at No. 3 in T20Is.

As things stand, it is most likely that India ask Dhawan to open the batting at Ranchi. If he finds consistency, India’s problems would be solved.

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