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Ind vs WI, 2nd ODI: Decision of Opening with Rishabh Pant raises more Questions than Answers

Rishabh Pant opened for India against West Indies in the second ODI

Rishabh Pant opened for Team India against West Indies in second ODI, one off the experiment to try out different combination (Image ©BCCI)
Rishabh Pant opened for Team India against West Indies in second ODI. (Image ©BCCI)

Few days back, India celebrated their 1000th ODI in great style hammering West Indies by 6 wickets. All the plans in that game by newly appointed leader Rohit Sharma produced the right results; whether in their bowling or batting departments.

Because of KL Rahul’s unavailability in the first of three ODIs and some players getting infected with Covid, Rohit opened the innings with Ishan Kishan who notched up 28 off 36-balls in a low-scoring affair; perhaps India wanted to keep the right-left combination to spoil the line and lengths of the bowlers. In the end, Suryakumar Yadav and debutant Deepak Hooda batted patiently in the middle-order to take them over the line.

Why to drop Ishan Kishan to open with Rishabh Pant?

They say when things go your way, it is never a wise option to tinker with your ideas. During the second ODI, captain Rohit Sharma informed that KL Rahul would replace Ishan Kishan in the side and it didn’t take a second for fans to imagine the Rohit-Rahul opening combo.

But suddenly, the team management sent Rishabh Pant to open the innings with Rohit; it was almost in the same fashion that MS Dhoni sent the current Indian captain in the opening slot 9 years back but that was because he wasn’t playing to his potential at numbers 5-6.

Left-handed batter Pant didn’t succeed like Rohit on Wednesday, scoring 18 uncomfortable runs at a strike rate of just over 50. Now, the problem wasn’t about the contribution but mostly about the future behind this move.

Pant had opened in the past during the 2016 U-19 World Cup but he seemed to be more consistent at number 5. Also, India’s plan to push back KL Rahul to number 4 is because of his high numbers in the position; the right-hander has scored at an average of 65.66 at numbers 4-7 since the start of 2019.

So, if India’s main plan was to have a right-left opening collaboration, then why did they drop Ishan Kishan who even with a low score looked good in the first game. More importantly, when Kishan would see his U-19 left-handed partner opening the innings, what message did he receive sitting in the dug-out?

KL Rahul - Suryakumar Yadav put on 90-run partnership for the fourth wicket against West Indies in 2nd ODI. (Image ©BCCI)
KL Rahul - Suryakumar Yadav put on 90-run partnership for 4th wicket against WI in 2nd ODI. (Image ©BCCI)

Are India looking to Invest more in Suryakumar Yadav?

So, India replaced a left-hander with a batter of the same variety in the opening slot and pushed KL Rahul down the order. They likely looked to groom Suryakumar Yadav in the middle-order; the Mumbai-born repaid the faith bestowed in him by the team management and scored a fantastic 64 during the second ODI.

Given the fact that the next World Cup is in India and generally in the middle overs of a 50-over game, every team requires a batter who is balanced enough to play the spinners with an ability to keep the ball on the floor for easy singles and also has the ability of switching gears to score aggressively. In all those situations, Surya can be the right person to invest in.

All these things then will produce more questions in the future!

Will India Drop Pant when Shikhar Dhawan comes back?

As talked about earlier, Shikhar Dhawan was unavailable for the first two ODIs due to contracting Covid just three days before the start of the series. Coming into the series, he was in terrific mood with 169 runs in the South Africa series and if he had been fit then without doubt he would have walked out with Rohit on February 6 in Ahmedabad.

But he will make a comeback, if not in the third and final ODI then in the next ODI series which India feature in. In that case, KL Rahul will bat in the middle-order and if Rishabh Pant bats at number 5, then India’s future plans of utilizing Suryakumar Yadav at 5 will be found in the dustbin.

But there is another path India may go which is opening with Rohit-Dhawan, one of the most successful opening combos for India, put Rahul at 4 with the additional duty of donning the gloves as he has done in the recent past and Surya at number 5; now for that settlement to grab life, India have to sacrifice Rishabh Pant.

Leaving out the quality of a possible future star of India, Pant who has an extraordinary strike rate of 109.83 in ODIs and spoiling the right-left combination in the middle overs could surely affect the team in their planning for ICC World Cup 2023.

Well, the talking point hasn’t stopped here.

What will happen to Shreyas-Surya when Hardik-Jadeja come back?

India have been without their prime all-rounders, Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja, due to injury. But it is an eventuality that they will return to the side sooner than later. It means that if Shikhar Dhawan opens and KL Rahul comes at number 4 with Rishabh Pant being slotted at number 5 and Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja arrive to the crease at numbers 6 and 7, where will Shreyas Iyer and Suryakumar Yadav go? Perhaps they have to run with towels and drinks!

Because it’s a no brainer to add Jadeja and Pandya in the mix whenever they will be fit. So, in that case if India have to still keep Suryakumar Yadav in the side then either they have to drop Rishabh Pant and put Rahul behind the wickets or they have to drop KL Rahul.

Even though India won the second ODI against West Indies by 44 runs, it appears to be that the decision to bring Rishabh Pant as an opener has raised more questions than answers. And as Rohit Sharma mentioned in the post-match presentation about Shikhar Dhawan coming back into the next game, it will be interesting to see whom they leave out. Rishabh Pant? KL Rahul? Suryakumar Yadav? Or perhaps the easy option, Deepak Hooda!

India play West Indies in the third ODI at the Narendra Modi Stadium on February 11 which will be a day-night fixture. The home side have taken an unassailable lead of 2-0 in the series.


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