Ever since its inception in 2004, T20I cricket has undergone a myriad of changes, and with each alteration, the nuances of the game have also changed. Yet, when it comes to batting, opening remains the most important aspect in this format of the game, since much of a team’s success hinges on the performances of the two chosen batters who lead the batting unit from the front.
On this list, we will rank the top five opening pairs that we will see in T20 World Cup 2022:
5. India – Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul
If the judging parameter of this list was name and stature, perhaps, India would have ranked first. Skipper Rohit Sharma is the leading run-scorer in this format with 3737 runs. His opener partner, KL Rahul ranks third for India with 2137 runs.
Yet, if we opt for a neutral analysis where current form and efficacy are given utmost priority, the Rohit-Rahul opening pair will not rank higher than the fifth position. Since the last T20 World Cup, India have changed their batting approach to an England-esque aggressive style.
Rohit Sharma’s strike rate over the last eleven months in T20I cricket is almost 150, but on the flip side, his average has taken a nosedive, dipping under 30. KL Rahul’s case is exactly the opposite. He has been able to play longer knocks more comfortably than his captain, but on most occasions, those long knocks have arrived at the expense of a handful of deliveries.
In 2022, Sharma has struck only a couple of T20I half-centuries. On the contrary, Rahul has scored four half-centuries this year despite playing fewer games, but only one of those knocks had a strike rate in excess of 160. To do well in the upcoming event, head coach Rahul Dravid would want synchronization between his two openers.
4. New Zealand – Finn Allen and Devon Conway
New Zealand have lost only two of their 14 T20I matches in 2022, and given their current form, it will not be an exaggeration to claim that last season’s finalists will be prepared to go one step further this time around.
The Blackcaps have used an opening combination of Finn Allen and Devon Conway in most of their T20I matches this year, and after all that the duo has produced over the last few months, it will be harsh if either is benched for the upcoming tournament.
Devon Conway is not the most aggressive among the modern-day openers, but he makes up for it with his incredible post-T20 World Cup 2021 average of 65.
In his last nine matches, the left-handed batter has been dismissed under 35 on only one occasion, while he also has scored two half-centuries in his last three fixtures.
Finn Allen’s post-2021 T20 WC average of 33.50 is not underwhelming, but it certainly looks a tad pale in comparison with his partner’s figure. Yet, the youngster has a crucial role to play in New Zealand’s team, as he bats in the fifth gear from the first delivery. He recorded a strike rate of 140+ in four of his last five matches.
In an era where the biggest tacticians of the game are strategizing a planned eradication of the phrase ‘sheet anchor,’ both Azam and Rizwan seem to be tailormade for that phrase.
They play long knocks more often than not, but in the process of doing so, they also use up a considerable chunk of the 20 allotted overs, thereby pressurizing the middle-order to fire in every match.
The pair have played a combined 33 T20I matches this year, but both Azam and Rizwan recorded a strike rate north of 150 on only one occasion. The green shirts will need a change their approach this time around, as it is imperative for at least either of the two to bat at a higher strike rate.
3. Pakistan – Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan
Solely based on runs scored, Pakistan would have secured gold on this list. Mohammad Rizwan has scored 1080 runs in T20I cricket since that ill-fated semi-final defeat against Australia last year – more than the combined tally of most teams' opening pairs.
His partner is skipper Babar Azam, who has accumulated 709 runs since that match. Yet, despite combining to score 1789 runs at an impressive average, Azam and Rizwan’s pair have been assigned the third rank owing to one significant factor – their strike rates.
2. England – Jos Buttler and Alex Hales
It will not be unfair to credit England for the batting style many teams have inculcated in recent times, and while they have had their share of failures with the chosen strategy, the Three Lions never deviated from their strategy.
Their skipper, Jos Buttler, has recorded a strike rate of 189.01 since last year’s T20 World Cup. Since making a comeback into the national team, Alex Hales has also done well to adapt England’s plan.
However, their ultra-aggressive batting approach has its flaws, as both batters’ average post last year's T20 World Cup is less than 30. If only either of the two can hold the fort for a little longer, England’s chances of lifting the silverware will take a massive jump.
1. Australia – David Warner and Aaron Finch
David Warner and Aaron Finch’s opening pair sits atop our list for not only their statistics, but with the home advantage also being taken into consideration. Warner is in a scintillating run of form currently, having scored four half-centuries in his last 10 T20I matches.
Finch’s numbers are not as impressive, but he was Australia’s second-highest run-scorer in the recently concluded two-match series against West Indies, and also looked decent in his 15-ball 31 in the second T20I against India. If Warner plays in his usual rhythm and Finch is successful in providing him with support from the other end, it will be difficult to prevent Australia from getting good starts.
(Note: Statistics of the aforementioned batters have been used from matches where they have played as openers)