The outbreak of COVID-19 has created confusion with respective to Men’s T20 World Cups to be hosted by Australia in 2020 and India in 2021. However, the Indian team will be in bigger conundrum considering their best possible batting line-up. Captain Virat Kohli and Vice-captain Rohit Sharma are sure starters in the Indian line-up while KL Rahul has almost sealed his spot with his batting prowess in T20s. With Rohit and Kohli likely to take up opening and No.3 positions, Rahul’s place is likely to depend on the team’s balance.
KL Rahul has to be used as an opener, at No.3 and even No.4 in the T20I format. In the last couple of ODI series, he was backed to excel at No.5 position which could give an opportunity to team management to hold him in the middle-order. This would also mean Shikhar Dhawan will join Rohit at the top. Dhawan’s T20I record is nowhere near to his ODI numbers and his poor show in 2014 and 2016 WT20s saw him being replaced by Ajinkya Rahane for the knockouts.
In the current situation, it is ideal to make Rahul open the innings with Rohit. The duo has been quite consistent as a pair in the limited-overs and their success in the last year’s World Cup is an example of the same. Their record as a pair in T20I cricket is good enough to be named as the best-ever in the format. The duo has shared three century partnerships and five 50-run stands across 18 partnerships in T20Is. They put on 1019 in those 18 innings which makes them the quickest pair to 1000 partnership runs in T20Is.
Among the pairs with 500+ runs, Rohit-Rahul pair’s average of 59.94 and run rate of 10.15 stands among the top three. Another Indian pair of Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni occupy top spots in both lists as they shared 523 runs in 15 innings at an average of 87.16 and at a rate of 10.25 runs per over. Most of Kohli-Dhoni partnerships have been for the 4th or 5th wicket when India were in need of quick runs and both of them were likely to remain unbeaten with less number of balls to face.
Rohit and Rahul have paired for 1st, 2nd and 3rd wicket in T20Is thus far and had partnership average of 50+ and run rate of 9.5+ for all the three wickets. The duo shared century stands in India’s top two T20I totals while batting first and an 89-run partnership during an unsuccessful attempt at world record chase in 2016. This shows how important their partnership could be when India will be in need of big runs. Their intent could add on at least 20-30 runs to what they managed in previous WT20 editions.
Ever since KL Rahul’s T20I debut in 2016, both the top-order batsmen have been scoring runs at a strike rate of over 145 in this format. Ability of scoring runs with less effort and pure timing makes their batting a treat to watch alongside being beneficiary for the team. Only time will tell whether the Indian team management want to make most out of the statistically best T20I pair for the biggest event in T20Is.
(Stats as on April 14, 2020)
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