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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

‘Bangla Battle’: Top-order composition in focus as Dhawan, Rahul jostle for opening spot

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Mirpur, Dec 3 (PTI): A consistent Shikhar Dhawan and a supremely talented KL Rahul will battle it out for the opener’s slot even as a top-heavy Indian batting line-up will aim for transformation and show more intent against a gutsy Bangladesh in the three-match ODI series, starting Sunday.

Throw a fabulously consistent young turk Shubman Gill (rested for this series) into the mix, and coach Rahul Dravid will struggle to fit in all the boxes of this jigsaw puzzle called Indian top-order.

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The focus for the next one year will primarily be on ODIs and just like the T20Is, India’s approach in the 50-over format needs a sea change.

Sometimes having a plethora of options isn’t actually a good headache to have as it creates more confusion among the rank and file of the team.

When there are similar skill set options, the coach tries to give everyone equal opportunities but it results in not having a settled line-up and this is not an ideal situation when a marquee event is round the corner.

Currently, the Indian white ball squad is now going through that particular phase.

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A few years back, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan were automatic picks as India’s preferred ODI opening pair with hardly any questions asked or their spots being debated.

But Dhawan’s slow approach in the Powerplay overs and the emergence of Gill as a potent 50-over opener is bound to throw up possibilities.

KL Rahul, during the last phase of Ravi Shastri’s coaching stint played a few games in the middle-order but he loves to bat at the top and has had a fair amount of success too.

Ironically, the numbers in the face of it will not give a clear indication as to who should be Rohit’s opening partner for the series.

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In the 19 ODI innings that Dhawan has opened for India in 2022, he had a poor strike-rate of 75.11.

While between 2016-18, it used to be 101 and between 2019-21, it dipped but was still a steady 91.

Rahul, who has five hundred and 10 fifties in 45 ODIs with a healthy strike-rate 85 plus and an impressive average of 45, looks a better candidate.

For the opening match though, in case the team management wants to give rest to a jet-lagged Dhawan, who has flown all the way from Down Under to join the team in Mirpur, Rahul will certainly join Rohit at the top.

While Virat Kohli at No. 3 is an automatic choice, Shreyas Iyer as India’s No. 4 is slowly settling down. Rishabh Pant after his heroics in the ODI series in England remains ahead of Ishan Kishan to start as No. 5 in the line-up.

Pant has copped a lot of flak for some of his cheap dismissals in T20s but despite some underwhelming shows in the recently concluded series, he remains the first choice keeper in 50 over format

Kishan, who prefers opening in T20 has got all his three half-centuries in ODIs batting at either No. 3 or 4.

It is believed that Kishan isn’t being looked at as a finisher and hence if he is played, he has to be fitted somewhere in top four.

But this whole equation could be turned upside down if Rahul decides to keep wickets, something which he has done sporadically in the past.

With no Sanju Samson in this particular series, Rajat Patidar and Rahul Tripathi, two consistent domestic cricket and IPL performers will fancy a chance or two to stay in the mix.

Tripathi also bowls a bit of seam-up stuff and in the absence of Hardik Pandya (rested due to workload), the Pune man might just provide a back-up option.

With Mohammed Shami ruled out due to shoulder injury, Umran Malik, who looked impressive in conducive conditions in New Zealand, has a chance to show a different facet of his bowling on tracks that are expected to be batting friendly. The pitches are likely to be a tad slower.

Deepak Chahar, Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur look certain to start against a Bangladesh side that will miss regular skipper Tamim Iqbal.

The Indian team mustn’t have forgotten the recent pasting that they got from newly-appointed ODI captain Litton Das in a T20 World Cup match in Adelaide.

Litton will like to lead from the front but it is the Taskin Ahmed less Bangladesh bowling that will face the real test. Mustafizur Rahaman, Ebadot Hossain, Shakib Al Hasan form is a potent attack but not formidable by any stretch of imagination.



Rohit Sharma (captain), KL Rahul (vc), Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (wk), Ishan Kishan (wk), Rajat Patidar, Rahul Tripathi, Axar Patel, Washington Sundar, Kuldeep Sen, Umran Malik, Deepak Chahar, Shardul Thakur, Shahbaz Ahmed, Mohammed Siraj


Litton Kumer Das, Anamul Hague Bijoy, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Afif Hossain, Yasir All Chowdhury, Mehidy Hasan Miraz, Mustafizur Rahman, Taskin Ahmed, Hasan Mahmud, Ebadot Hossain Chowdhury, Nasum Ahmed, Mahmud Ullah, Najmul Hossain Shanto, Quazi Nurul Hasan Sohan, Shoriful Islam.

Match Starts:

11:30 am IST.

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The Hills Times, a largely circulated English daily published from Diphu and printed in Guwahati, having vast readership in hills districts of Assam, and neighbouring Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur
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