With an eye on the T20 World Cup in 2020, the Indian team is looking to prepare a core unit in the least possible time. The reason behind the team’s failure in the World Cup 2019 was a fragile middle order, which couldn’t survive the shock of the top three failing to deliver. But the men-in-blue has left behind that disappointment to hand over a defeat to West Indies in the Caribbean islands.
There are many youngsters waiting to get their chances, thereby increasing the intensity of competition. Apart from the middle order, the team would also like to work on the backup openers, to have a Plan-B in place if Rohit Sharma or Shikhar Dhawan are injured or go out of form for long.
On this note, let us take a look at some openers, who can challenge these two to hold their spot.
1. Shubman Gill
Since the Under19 World Cup 2018, Shubman Gill has taken rapid strides in the domestic and the franchise cricket. The 20-year-old was the emerging player of the IPL 2019. Not to forget, he was initially made to bat at number 6 or 7 in the batting heavy KKR lineup, but once promoted to open the innings, he showcased his mettle.
While opening in 6 IPL innings, he scored 236 runs, with the help of 3 half-centuries and a strike rate of 140. Even after that, he has continued to score heavily in domestic cricket. He also made his international debut against New Zealand in 2018. Apart from his consistency, Shubman has the ability to play according to the needs of the situation, something that makes him special.
Since it is just the beginning of the home season, the Indian team management would like to test him. This would also be the best way for Shubman to make a mark since he might be aware of the home conditions. He is definitely the future of Indian cricket, but it remains to be seen if he can be the present as well.
2. Prithvi Shaw
Like Shubman, Prithvi Shaw was also the find of the Under19 World Cup 2018. In fact, he was the captain of the team that won the tournament. He has been with Delhi Capitals for two seasons now, and his performance has been up to the mark. IPL 2019 was exceptionally good for this hard-hitting right-hander.
Prithvi scored 353 runs in the 16 games, at a strike-rate above 130. Who can forget his match-winning 99 against KKR, where he took on demand the likes of Kuldeep Yadav, Andre Russell, and Lockie Ferguson. Though he could manage only 2 half-centuries, Prithvi chipped in with some crucial cameos. Add to this, he was the top-scorer of the T20 Mumbai 2019 with 249 runs in 6 games, that helped his team win the title.
The 19-year-old has been suspended till November 15 for violating the doping rules. It would be interesting to see how quickly he will be able to be back among runs after this 8-months ban. Prithvi will have to make every chance count if he has any chance of making it to the T20I team ahead of Rohit or Shikhar.
3. Lokesh Rahul
Lokesh Rahul is probably the toughest competitor for the current openers. The stylish right-hander was included as the backup opener in the World Cup squad, and he turned out to be a masterstroke for the team. After Shikhar was injured, he joined hands with Rohit to form the best opening pair of the tournament. Rahul personally scored 361 runs in 9 innings.
Though Rahul has never been able to establish himself as a red-ball cricketer, his numbers in the limited-overs cricket are jaw-dropping. The 27-year-old scored 659 runs in IPL 2019 and followed it with 593 runs in the following season. Moreover, all these knocks came as an opener.
It is safe to say that he will always be pushing the two openers for their places. Rahul has all the traits of a good opener- from a good defense to a variety of attacking shots. Thus, it would be interesting to see what decision the team management take for him over the next few series. The only problem for him has been his consistency, and he would definitely like to work over it.
4. Mayank Agarwal
Before the Australia Test series, Mayank was a domestic champion, who was heavily piling up runs but still not getting many chances. After the historic series, he became a household name. So huge was his impact, that he was included in the World Cup squad ahead of the likes of Ambati Rayadu and Ajinkya Rahane, despite the fact that he is uncapped.
In a short international career, Mayank has impressed everyone. Moreover, he has done pretty well in the IPL as well. The 28-year-old scored 332 runs in the IPL 2019 at an astonishing strike rate of 141. The only problem is that of wasting starts. More often than not, Mayank looks good till the 30s but throws away his wicket through rash shots.
This can be well understood from the fact that he was dismissed during the 30s five times in 14 IPL 2019 games. But Mayank has fared exceedingly well in the test matches, and he certainly has the potential to do the same in the T20Is as well, provided that he improves over his shot selection and throwing away wickets.
5. Suryakumar Yadav
This name often tends to be forgotten. It needs no revision that this man was the unsung hero of Mumbai Indians’ title victory in IPL 2019. He scored 424 runs in 16 games, at a strike rate above 130 and an average of 32.61. His 54-ball-71 in a tense situation against CSK in the Qualifier-1 was arguably one of the top knocks of the season.
Suryakumar scored 202 runs in 5 games of T20 Mumbai, with two unbeaten half-centuries. He had the best average in the season (67.33). One can find all the qualities of a T20I batsman inside him. He can steady the pace of the innings of wickets are falling, and if needs be, he can attack from the word go.
One would never see him getting out while playing rash shots since he has the ability to rotate the strike well and play down the ground shots. However, the biggest advantage of him being in the team is his ability to play at any position. He is equally potent in the role of a finisher and an opener. That is why he has been successful as a finisher for KKR, as well as a number 3 batsman for MI.
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