India vs Sri Lanka, ODIs, 2022-23: Key Questions - Shubman Gill or Ishan Kishan for opener’s slot, KL Rahul or Suryakumar Yadav for middle order?
India have begun their road to the ICC Men’s One Day International World Cup 2023 campaign with a victory over the touring Sri Lanka side in the first of the three-match ODI series in Guwahati.
Even though it may sound a little surprising but India have played just 13 One Day International (ODI) games at home since the beginning of 2020, out of which they have gained victory in 10 games. Even after shortlisting 20 players for the upcoming Cricket World Cup, India have a few areas to work upon closely.
Fair to give Gill chances to have a long run: Rohit Sharma
On the eve of the first ODI game in the ongoing series against Sri Lanka, India captain Rohit Sharma kept Shubman Gill ahead for the second opener’s slot along with himself, rather than going for Ishan Kishan, who was in supreme form recording the fastest ODI double century in his last game against Bangladesh on December 10, 2022.
“Both openers (Gill and Kishan) have done really well. But looking at how both have performed, I think it’s fair that we give Gill a chance to have a fair run because in the last game, Gill got a lot of runs as well,” Rohit said after the first ODI.
The India skipper also stressed that he understood Kishan’s efforts and added that the left-handed wicketkeeper batter would stay in the mix for future games.
“I am not going to take anything from Ishan; he has been wonderful for us and got a double hundred and I know what it takes to get a double hundred, it’s a great achievement,” Rohit said. “But to be honest and to be fair to the guys who have done really well earlier, we need to give those guys enough chances as well.”
“It’s unfortunate that we won’t be able to play Ishan but looking at how things have panned out for us in the last 8-9 months, looking at how the ODIs have gone for us, it’s fair to give Gill that run and he has done extremely well in that position,” Rohit narrated that India who will play 14 more ODI games excluding Asia Cup 2023 till CWC 2023 will try to offer Ishan Kishan more opportunities in the future. “We will definitely try and keep Ishan in the mix and see how things pan out for us as we play lot of games ahead.”
Explosive Ishan brings different dimension to the side
A look at the best ODI teams of late will suggest that all of them have got some great firepower in their upper order to go after the bowlers in the powerplay. Opening the batting for England, explosive opener Jonny Bairstow has scored 427 runs and a strike rate of 107.28 in ODIs since the beginning of 2021, while his partner Jason Roy has scored 510 runs at a strike rate of 101.59.
India were facing a huge problem in this area for a long time and that was the reason why they dropped Shikhar Dhawan who has scored 985 runs at a strike rate of just 78.80 in the opening slot in ODIs since 2021. It was a little too late to drop someone on whom they have invested in for the last three years, even after making him the stand-in captain in the absence of the regular leader but Dhawan’s slow starts made him droppable.
With both Shubman Gill and Ishan Kishan grabbing their opportunities with extreme pace in the upper order, it necessitates the occurrence of an extraordinary circumstance for Dhawan to make a comeback in the side before the World Cup.
But the burning question at present is whom should India choose between Ishan Kishan and Shubman Gill to partner Rohit Sharma at the opening position. Even though Gill made his debut against New Zealand back in 2019, he didn’t get a long rope prior to that period. Since 2021 in ODIs in the opening position, Shubman Gill has smashed 545 runs in 11 games with an average of 68.12 and at a strike rate of 98.91 with a best score of 98*. His only ODI century against Zimbabwe in the same phase came at number three.
It can be observed that Gill likes to take his time at the start of the innings before going after the bowlers which is almost the same manner in which both Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli love to play. The India captain who has missed quite a few games with variable reasons has scored 371 runs in 11 games with an average of just 37.10 and strike rate of 102.77 without a single century in the opening position since 2021. While Virat Kohli’s 544 runs in 15 games have come at a strike rate of 93.41 at the number three position in ODIs since 2021. This means India need someone who can score freely at the top to provide them those lightning starts like the other sides.
Ishan Kishan, who hasn’t got a lot of chances at the opening position has scored 238 runs in just two games in that slot at a strike rate of 142.51 including his 210-run knock against Bangladesh that came in just 131 balls. He also slapped 177 runs in 91 balls during the 11th to the 40th over in that knock which suggested that he hates to slow down after getting a start. All these things should put the weight little on his side to get a chance ahead of Gill, especially when India have to think about scoring 20-25 runs more in all the games keeping dew in mind during their campaign in CWC 2023.
In-form Suryakumar Yadav can replace KL Rahul in the middle order
There is hardly any doubt about the sort of form Suryakumar Yadav is in at the moment in the shortest format of the game. Since 2022, SKY has scored 1334 runs in 34 games at a strike rate of 185.79 and an average of 49.40 with three centuries, with the latest one came against Sri Lanka in the third of the three-match T20I series when he thumped 112* in just 51 balls.
It was almost a certainty that he would be given a chance in the playing eleven of the ODI side but India captain Rohit Sharma felt that they should try to draw a line between T20Is and ODIs.
“It’s a great headache to have rather than having no headache. We will look at who gas done well for us in ODI cricket and in what situations they have done well,” Rohit averred bringing the importance of formats too besides current form. “The problem happens when you start comparing different formats. Those guys who have performed in ODIs will get a run, as simple as that.”
There shouldn’t be any debate on the place of Shreyas Iyer who has scored 758 ODI runs in 17 innings at an average of 50.53 and strike rate of 91.99 with six fifties and one hundred since the beginning of 2021. The bigger debate perhaps should be around the bemusing decision to including KL Rahul at the cost of benching an in-form Suryakumar Yadav. Rahul’s ODI numbers simply didn’t pass the litmus test - 290 runs in 11 matches at an average of 29 and a strike rate of 84.79 with a highest score of 73.
Once India decided to omit Ishan Kishan, they have to have Rahul in the mix given he is the only other wicketkeeper available in the squad, especially after the unfortunate accident of Rishabh Pant. This also means that India will have six right-handers in the current side till Axar Patel, which somehow breaks the balance of the team.
Even though the ploy to come at any position and try to hit from the very first ball is in vogue in T20Is, but in ODIs there is much more premium on wickets. But England have shown that it can be done and they have built their whole team around the same philosophy, something that other teams and India may think of matching in the future.
Looking at both these issues, there is a bridge that connects both the problems - if one is sorted out, the results will start to come from the other one too. An entry at the opening position for left-hander Ishan Kishan with his wicketkeeping abilities will offer India the chance to add in-form Suryakumar Yadav in the middle order.
After finishing the ongoing three-match ODI series against Sri Lanka, India will face New Zealand in another three-match ODI series that will start on January 18 at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad.