Ajinkya Rahane opened in the One-Day series against England © Getty Images
Ajinkya Rahane made 106 as an opener  in the 4th ODI against England in the series held in September © Getty Images

Sri Lanka’s tour of India commences with the practice match between India A and Sri Lankans at Mumbai on Thursday. Rohit Sharma will be playing his first competitive match since the second One-Day International (ODI) against England at Cardiff in August. Shiamak Unwalla wonders whether it would be more prudent to reintegrate Rohit in the middle order.

A couple of years ago, even their most optimistic fans would have found it hard to believe that by 2014 Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan would be two of the top three Indian batsmen in ODIs. And yet, that is exactly the case. Since 2013, only Virat Kohli has scored more runs than the Indian openers (though it cannot be denied that openers have a greater chance of scoring runs than the men in the middle-order).

Name

Period

M

Runs

HS

Ave

SR

100s

50s

Virat Kohli

2013-2014

50

1,993

136

52.44

97.6

7

10

Shikhar Dhawan

2013-2014

41

1,694

119

45.78

90.92

5

8

Rohit Sharma

2013-2014

38

1,501

209

46.9

78.66

2

11

Suresh Raina

2013-2014

47

1,214

100

36.78

92.46

1

7

MS Dhoni

2013-2014

38

1,171

139*

58.55

94.58

1

10

As seen above, Rohit has scored more half-centuries than anyone on the list, while enjoying the third highest average. His strike rate is a worrying 78.66, but the fact that he has scored 209 in an ODI is proof enough of his ability to score quickly.

However, since his injury Ajinkya Rahane has started opening the innings for India, and he has done so with considerable success. Since 2013, Rahane has opened the innings on 14 occasions but has a middling record. However, since Rohit’s injury, Rahane’s record as opener has been much better.

Name

M

Runs

HS

Ave

SR

100s

50s

Ajinkya Rahane

6

255

106

42.5

88.54

1

1

Rahane also enjoys the faith and backing of his captain MS Dhoni. If it is a toss-up between Rohit and Rahane at the top, therefore, their records in the middle order become that much more vital. Ironically, while both men bat in the middle order for Mumbai, neither of them enjoys a particularly successful time at Nos 4-7 in ODIs.

Name

M

Runs

Highest

Ave

100s

Rohit Sharma

75

1847

114

34.2

2

Ajinkya Rahane

9

215

73

23.88

0

Rohit has, of course, played a lot more international cricket than Rahane, and is therefore at an advantage in terms of both experience and runs. Both men have enjoyed considerably more success as openers than they did in the middle order. With Rahane finding his groove at the top of the order and Rohit just coming back from an injury, it could be prudent to let Rahane stay where he is and reintegrate Rohit in the middle order.

The practice match between India A and Sri Lankans — which will feature Rohit — will be the ideal time for him to bat in the middle-order. If he manages to do well there, it could be one less headache for the Indian management.

Complete coverage of Sri Lanka tour of India 2014

(Shiamak Unwalla, a reporter with CricketCountry, is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and Cricket fanatic. You can follow him on Twitter @ShiamakUnwalla)