Rohit-Kohli? Rohit-Rahul? India’s Opening Jigsaw Puzzle in T20Is

There’s no real doubt that Rohit Sharma will open, but who plays along with him at the T20 World Cup?       

4 min read
KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma walk out to open the innings against England. 

The T20I series between India and England was expected to be closely fought and intense, which it was with the hosts running away as winners in emphatic style in the decider.

The return of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Hardik Pandya bowling fulling tilt and the debutants starting off with a bang were among the big positives for India. However, despite the plethora of options, India’s opening partnership remains unsettled.

The Indian team management have a few hard calls to make regarding the opening slot to allow a better balance. Over the years, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and more recently KL Rahul have been the ones to take share the duties, but against England, Ishan Kishan and Virat Kohli stepped up and delivered match-defining contributions.


There’s no real uncertainty that Rohit Sharma will be one of the openers, but who plays along with him at the T20 World Cup in October-November in India? What are India’s possible options at this point in time?

Want India to persist with Kohli-Rohit opening pair: Sunil Gavaskar. 
Want India to persist with Kohli-Rohit opening pair: Sunil Gavaskar. 
(Credit: BCCI)

Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli

With Kohli and Rohit, India’s captain and vice-captain, there is plenty of experience and of course the small matter that they’re the highest scoring batsmen in all of T20Is.

“If we have a partnership and we both are set, then you know that one of us is going to cause some serious damage. That’s exactly what we want. And the other guys feel much more confident when one of us is still in and set, they know that they can play more freely.” 
Virat Kohli

“I am going to open in the IPL as well; have batted in different positions in the past. But I feel we have a solid middle order now. It is about the two best players getting maximum number of balls in T20 cricket. I’d like to partner Rohit at the top and the other guys feel confident when one of us is in. I’d like that to continue that,” said Kohli.

There’s likely to be very tasks as daunting in T20 cricket than bowling to Rohit and Kohli in full flow, and an example of what they can achieve was seen on Saturday against England.

While Rohit’s credentials as an opener are well documented, Kohli has not done too badly either in his 8 opportunities. Kohli’s scored 278 runs with a strike rate of 149, with two fifties to go.

What Kohli’s move up the order also allowed was an additional bowling option, which is essential in the shortest format and that apart, it would definitely make sense to have the team’s most destructive batsmen facing as many deliveries as possible.

KL Rahul dismissed for 0 by Mark Wood. 
KL Rahul dismissed for 0 by Mark Wood. 
Image: BCCI

Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul

One of India’s more favoured opening pairs in the T20 format in recent years, the two right handers have been the most favoured outside of the Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma combination.

Batting together in 13 innings, Rohit and Rahul boast of good numbers with a runrate of 9.42. However, the Karnataka man’s recent run of poor scores have brought the scanner on him, more so with the wicket-keeping responsibilities now going to Rishabh Pant.

Out of touch and out of form, Rahul has looked short of confidence in the England series and has done himself no favours with his tally of 15 runs from 4 games.

While it is impossible to rule out Rahul’s return to the top of the order, an exceptional IPL campaign is a must for the Punjab Kings man.

India is likely to play a few more T20Is before the World Cup and have plenty of players who could potentially step up to open. As they continue to experiment, Rahul will need to be on top of his game to stay in contention, because in Kohli and Rohit at the top, like in the 5th T20I, India might have found their best option.


Rohit and Shikhar Dhawan

For long, India’s most trusted openers in white-ball cricket, Rohit and Dhawan have played 53 knocks together and scored more than 1743 runs with a run rate of 8.28. They also hold the record for India’s best opening stand in T20Is.

Dhawan, who has not been a regular in T20Is and is expected to play second fiddle as Kohli said ahead of the England series, had a brilliant IPL season last time round, finishing as the second highest run getter behind KL Rahul.

In recent years, Dhawan has found himself out of the system in the T20I set-up but scored a handy half century against Australia.

Has Dhawan’s bad outing against England closed the door on him or can he rediscover his destructive ways through the IPL and make a claim for the World Cup berth.

The duo has been India’s most consistent but for Dhawan how many more chances are in the bank?

Ishan Kishan congratulated by Virat Kohli after reaching his fifty 
Ishan Kishan congratulated by Virat Kohli after reaching his fifty 
Image: BCCI

Rohit and Ishan Kishan

Teammates in the IPL for the Mumbai Indians, the most decorated side in the tournament, Kishan and Rohit bring forth the left-right combination which can cause chaos on most days, especially if both batsmen like to attack from the get-go.

In the absence of Rohit, the left-hander stepped up in the second T20I and produced a scintillating knock along side Kohli after Rahul had departed for 0.

While Ishan Kishan’s presence adds another left hander in the line-up, he can also bat in the middle-order if need be – making him a more versatile option.

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