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Rohit & Shikhar – One Of India’s Greatest-Ever Opening Pairs?

Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have been India’s first-pick openers in the shorter format in half a decade.

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Cricket
4 min read
Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan scored 210 runs for the first wicket against Pakistan in the Asia Cup on Sunday.
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Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir had served India with blood, sweat and tears for a long, long time. But around January of 2013, their ODI careers were breathing their last. The pair had been instrumental in the team’s success over the years, piling up runs at a hefty average of 50.54. But the sun was setting on their prolific careers.

Their waning powers now created a void in the Indian top order. Ajinkya Rahane was tried as an opener in the home series against England but that ploy too did not bear any fruit. The Men in Blue were on a quest for a stable opening duo.

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The Beginning of a New Era

After India went through a rejig in their batting order, Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma were given a go as openers for the first time in the 2013 Champions Trophy. And boy did they click together! The duo proved to be the most successful opening pair of the tournament, scoring 540 runs in just 5 innings. That was the beginning of an era in Indian cricket.

Rohit & Shikhar – One Of India’s Greatest-Ever Opening Pairs?
(Graphic: Shruti Mathur/The Quint)

Dhawan, especially, has always displayed a certain liking for the big stage. The 32-year-old goes into an altogether different zone in ICC events or any multi-nation tournaments for that matter. He averages 65.28 in tournaments with five or more sides. This, in fact, is the highest average for any batsman after a minimum of 20 innings. Gabbar, as he is popularly known, has amassed 1632 runs from 26 matches in multi-nation events, embellished by seven imperious tons.

A Clinical Asia Cup Thus Far

  • A 49-run stand against Hong Kong off 46 deliveries when the opposition’s first wicket went down for 174 in the 35th over.
  • An 86-run stand against Pakistan off 79 deliveries when the opposition’s first wicket went down for two in the third over.
  • A 61-run stand against Bangladesh off 86 deliveries when the opposition’s first wicket went down for 15 in the 5th over.
  • A 210-run stand against Pakistan off 201 deliveries when the opposition’s first wicket went down for 24 in the 8th over.

One need not be eagle-eyed to see the stark difference between the opening partnerships of India and that of the opponents. The only match in which the opposition openers outscored Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, Hong Kong ended just a stone's throw away from an unprecedented victory.

Other than that, it has been an absolute breeze for India. Sure, the bowlers have done an amazing job by restricting the opposition for manageable targets but it’s no cakewalk on these sluggish UAE wickets to score with such consistency. Twice, Rohit and Shikhar have knocked the props out from under Pakistan’s pedigreed bowling line up. As much as their partnership has inspired confidence in fellow teammates, it has deflated the opposition equally.

“Had we got early wickets, this chase would have been certainly difficult. We have been losing a lot of wickets in the early overs and hence it becomes difficult to recover from such situations. The way they batted, all credit to them. Rohit and Dhawan were exceptional,” said a dejected Pakistan captain in the post-match presentation, hoping that his boys could pull off such a show.  Just imagine how big a difference it would have made if Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq had got Pakistan off to a flier. Revisit the 2017 Champions Trophy final for some context.

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Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan have been India’s top pick for the opening slot in the shorter formats for over half a decade.
Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan have been India’s top pick for the opening slot in the shorter formats for over half a decade.
(Photo: AP)

The Insatiable Hunger for Runs

Another noteworthy thing here is that both Dhawan and Rohit are not coming off the best of times. Both have had their issues in red ball cricket, where their careers stand on the edge of a steep cliff.

Rohit had been hurt after he had to make way for Karun Nair in the Test squad. “Sun will rise again tomorrow,” read his tweet after the unceremonious axing. Dhawan, on the other hand, tried his best on the England tour but his best was not good enough.  The southpaw returned with 162 runs from eight innings at 20.25 and a red ball future that looks gloomy. “It wasn’t a question of form, I was batting well but wasn’t getting runs,” he said.

Hungry, is the frame of mind with which both openers entered the Asia Cup. And they have made hay while the UAE sun shone warm and bright. Their Test careers might tell a different tale but make no mistake, the two remain white ball wizards.

On Their Way to Glory

Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma are 32 and 31 years old respectively. It has been half a decade now since they have been starting the proceedings together in the ODIs. If they can remain fit and their form serves them well for another five years or so, we are certainly on to something special.

Rohit & Shikhar – One Of India’s Greatest-Ever Opening Pairs?
(Graphic: Shruti Mathur/The Quint)

If only the two charismatic openers can last for another ODI World Cup after 2019, they would surpass the duo of Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly to become India’s greatest opening pair of all time. For now, the two would have their eyes set on their staple diet – another ICC tournament, the 2019 World Cup.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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