Former India opener Kris Srikkanth has backed KL Rahul and not Shikhar Dhawan as India’s opener keeping in mind the T20 World Cup in Australia next year. Srikkanth, a former chairman of selectors feels Dhawan is struggling to play his natural game of attacking, which in turn is hurting India in the Powerplay.

Dhawan is yet to score a T20I half-century this year. In 13 matches in 2019, Dhawan has scored 222 runs with a best of 41 which incidentally came in the first T20I in Delhi against Bangladesh which India lost. However, what concerns Srikkanth is the 42 balls which Dhawan consumed to score those runs and feels Rahul is better equipped to partner Rohit Sharma at the top.

“As often in the past, India failed to accelerate during Powerplay. Rohit Sharma often make it up but Shikhar Dhawan does fail to shift gears when required and that has cost the team,” Srikkanth wrote in his column for the Times of India Thursday.

“What baffles me is the approach of Dhawan. His inability to go out and play his natural game despite being a senior member is hurting the team. I will stick my neck out and field KL Rahul as an opener in this format. Along with Rohit, the team will have two explosive batsmen when field restrictions are in place.

“With Virat Kohli firm at one-drop, I would like to see Rishabh Pant to be given an extended (fair) run at four. Let’s face it, the top-four make or break games in T20s. Once we have a settled batsman who are assured of their roles, I am sure India will do well in the World Cup.

Srikkanth also spoke about the team management’s need to hand Rishabh Pant a longer rope. With MS Dhoni having seemingly retired, the selectors are grooming Pant to be India’s next point person behind the stumps, with stand-in captain Rohit Sharma already in favour of backing the 25-year-old wicketkeeper. Srikkanth explained through an example of his own playing days when he would repeatedly receive the confidence of his captains.

“During my playing days, Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar always backed me and told me to go and express myself without worrying too much about my place in the XI. Whatever little I was able to contribute was because of the confidence they gave me,” Srikkanth explained.

“Similarly, Pant requires that kind of backing. I do understand the logic behind Saha taking over in Test cricket, but Pant should be the primary pick in white-ball cricket. Any comparison to MS Dhoni should stop. It is not doing the youngster any good and players like Dhoni are once in a generation.”