Former players left wondering as India’s musical chairs with T20I opening pair continues

With less than three months left for the Men’s T20 World Cup to begin in Australia, India’s preparations continue to be serene with a 68-run win over West Indies in the first of the five T20Is at the Brian Lara Stadium.

As Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik and the bowling attack became the chief architects of India’s thumping win, there was another aspect of their game which didn’t do under the carpet: playing musical chairs with the opening pair.

With the team sheet for the first T20I slotting Rishabh Pant to open the batting alongside Rohit, many felt that the left-right experiment will continue which started from second T20I against England at Edgbaston.

To everyone’s surprise, middle-order batter Suryakumar Yadav opened the batting alongside Rohit, making 24 off 16 balls, which meant Pant was back at number four but could manage just 14 runs. It also meant that this was India’s seventh opening pair tried in T20Is this year.

The previous pairs tried by the side in 2022 are as follows: Rohit Sharma-Ishan Kishan, Sanju Samson-Rohit Sharma, Ruturaj Gaikwad-Ishan Kishan, Deepak Hooda-Ishan Kishan, Sanju Samson-Ishan Kishan and Rohit Sharma-Rishabh Pant.

From an innings perspective in 2022, Kishan has got most chances as an opener, playing 13 innings, followed by Rohit (9), Gaikwad (6), Samson and Pant (2 each), Hooda and Suryakumar (once each).

Through a combination of resting players due to tight schedule and injuries to some of the cricketers, India are still in the process of nailing a partner for Rohit and deciding on potent back-up options.

On the Pant-Suryakumar swap in the first T20I against West Indies, former India cricketer Mohammed Kaif felt that it shouldn’t have had happened and asked for Rohit Sharma as well as Rahul Dravid to give Pant chances to open the batting.

“Whatever that was, I did not understand it at all. If you were trying Rishabh Pant as the opener for 2-3 matches, then you should have gone with him today as well. Give him at least five chances. And this strategy of captain Rohit Sharma and coach Rahul Dravid, they back the players at least 5-6 matches. But this did not happen with Pant,” Kaif was quoted as saying on series streaming app Fancode.

Kaif further reckoned that Suryakumar’s role in middle-order shouldn’t have been tampered with another opening option in Kishan present in the squad. “And Suryakumar has the role of controlling the innings in the middle and adding those finishing touches. In fact, his role will remain as the No. 4 batter when (Virat) Kohli and (KL) Rahul return. But Pant should have been tried. Clearly, I did not understand what happened. Ishan Kishan is also waiting.”

Compared to Kaif’s views, former India wicketkeeper-batter Parthiv Patel thought that opening experiments are happening to adjust talismanic batter Virat Kohli, currently rested from the series amidst a prolonged lean patch with the bat, in the playing eleven.

“All these changes we are seeing in the opening order, that’s happening because they want to try and fit in Virat Kohli in that XI. That’s the reason we are seeing Surya and Rishabh Pant opening. That’s something I feel,” said Patel on Cricbuzz.




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