India vs New Zealand: KL Rahul to Open as Dhawan Nurses Injury
KL Rahul has been challenged by India batting coach Sanjay Bangar to adjust quickly to opening the innings after Shikhar Dhawan was ruled out of at least their next three Cricket World Cup games.
Bangar confirmed Dhawan broke his left thumb against Australia while scoring a match-winning century. His absence is a blow to India.
India is keeping Dhawan, whom it regards as "a precious player," around for 10-12 days in the hope his thumb responds to treatment.
Dhawan will miss at least the games against New Zealand on Thursday, 13 June, at Nottingham, against Pakistan on 16 June at Manchester, and against Afghanistan on 22 June in Southampton.
In the meantime, India is bringing over left-hand middle-order batsman Rishabh Pant on standby.
Rahul was picked as the third opener in the squad but was given the vacant No. 4 batting spot after hitting 108 against Bangladesh in their last warmup. He scored 26 against South Africa and 11 not out against Australia.
Because Dhawan and Rohit Sharma are one of the world's great one-day international partnerships, Rahul's opportunities to open have been limited. He debuted as an ODI opener in 2016 but last did it for India in January 2017.
"As far as the batting order goes, KL moves up at the top of the order," said Bangar.
“The advantages of playing in various situations is that you understand the game a lot better. If you are batting in the middle order and suddenly you go and bat in the top order, you know how challenging it can be, wherein you need to negotiate two new balls but you also understand that there are these boundary opportunities.”Sanjay Bangar
"So if a player is able to do that, it helps the team big time. So it's a mental adjustment, and any player who is able to do that requires a lot of skill, but ultimately it will enhance the position that he will bat in, and it will help the team's cause," Bangar said.
Rahul's promotion won't change India's strategy of slow scoring at the start. Dhawan and Sharma scored only 41 off the first 10 overs against Australia. They waited for the seam to soften after 10 overs, and the change bowlers, and went on to their 16th century partnership.
If Dhawan has to be ruled out later, then Pant will be close for the team to add him officially.
Pant made his debut last October and has played five ODIs for an average of 23.