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ICC World T20 2014: Ajinkya Rahane has stronger case to open, but team dynamics may persist with Rohit Sharma

Ajinkya Rahane has the necessary experience of opening in T20 format © Getty Images
Ajinkya Rahane has the necessary experience of opening in T20 format © Getty Images

Ajinkya Rahane has a fantastic record opening the batting in T20 cricket, when compared to Rohit Sharma, who mainly bats in the middle for Mumbai Indians. Nishad Pai Vaidya examines whether Rohit’s one-day record automatically guarantees him a spot at the top, or does Rahane have a stronger case for the ICC World T20 2014.

Should India reconsider their batting order for the ICC World T20 2014? Following the loss against Sri Lanka in the warm-up on Monday, one of the commentators mentioned on air that there could be a case for Rohit Sharma to move into the middle order and allow Ajinkya Rahane to open the batting. Someone may ask why? After all, hasn’t the promotion transformed Rohit in One-Day Internationals (ODIs)? However, this is T20 cricket — a different ball-game that demands the smart use of personnel, for it makes the difference in tense situations.

In ODIs, Rohit has been very consistent since he was promoted in January last year. He has taken his time in the middle, waited for the opportunities and then accelerated. Along with Shikhar Dhawan, he has formed a strong combination, although they haven’t quite performed in recent times. In T20 Internationals, Rohit has opened the batting six times and has managed one fifty. However, lower down the order, his figures are a lot better.

In the Indian Premier League (IPL), Rohit often walks in at No 4 for the Mumbai Indians. If the situation demands, then he is promoted to No 3. But, it is at No 4 where he has been the most effective. And then there is Rahane, who has been very consistent while opening the batting for the Rajasthan Royals. With that experience of opening in a T20 game on a consistent basis, he may be a better foil to Dhawan that Rohit for this format.

Most of their batsmen in India’s World T20 squad can bat in the top three, or have the necessary experience to do well.  Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli, who have been brilliant at No 3 for their respective sides in the IPL, form a good case for that spot. In the warm-up game, Raina was given a go  and he duly responded with a brisk innings of 41. On current form, perhaps Kohli could pip him in the race before the main draws, but Raina’s case can’t be ignored. His T20 International ton also came at that spot.

So if Rohit is moved out of the opening spot, where would he go, assuming Raina bats at No 3 and Kohli at 4? And of course, there is Yuvraj Singh, who also pushes his case for No 4. That is where the team management may find it tricky. In such a scenario, the team management may be wise enough to perhaps let Kohli in at No 3, Yuvraj at No 4 and Rohit at No 5. Raina can then join in at No 6, where he would be the finisher. That would put MS Dhoni in at No 7 and Ravindra Jadeja at No 8.

But considering the fact that India may opt for three spinners, a batsman would have to drop out. Rahane may yet again find himself on the bench as playing three spinners would then put Jadeja at No 7. Rohit may, after all, continue to open the batting and the others would go a spot higher in the line-up discussed above.  Yuvraj doesn’t roll his arm over often these days and that demands the fifth bowler in the Indian team.

To sum up, the arguments to make Rahane to open the batting and push Rohit down may be strong, but then it may alter the whole balance of things. Yuvraj and Raina have specifically been picked for this tournament, although they are out of the ODI side. That makes them fixtures in a sense that India need them for this world tournament. But considering the need for the fifth bowler and the need to place the other batsmen in proper spots, Rahane may miss out. Unless the team management pulls a surprise and benches Dhawan.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)

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