Shikhar Dhawan's three-week ouster from the Cricket World Cup 2019 may not crease Virat Kohli's forehead too much. The hairline fracture on his left thumb means the veteran left-hander will need to regain a lot of mental strength before he can open the innings for India again in this Cricket World Cup. The bottom-hand enables a left-hander to generate power and Dhawan's game is mainly built on that.
Thanks to the wisdom shown by the national selectors, India have enough back-up to fill slots left vacant by either injury or loss of form. While most members of India's 15 for the World Cup automatically chose themselves, naming KL Rahul, Vijay Shankar and Dinesh Karthik in the squad could now prove to be a masterstroke.
Karthik's selection ahead of Rishabh Pant met with a lot of public outcry, but the fact that Karthik is far more experienced in terms of temperament and application in English conditions may come to assist India, now that Dhawan's exit opens up a possibility for the Chennai keeper-batsman. Karthik can open the innings if need be.
KL Rahul's could be a good replacement for Shikhar Dhawan. AP Photo
KL Rahul looks like a straight-forward replacement for Dhawan at the top. He is the team's third specialist opener and proved his credentials with a century in the warm-up match against Bangladesh in swinging conditions at Cardiff.
Rahul batted at No. 4 but was virtually playing a new ball after Rohit and Dhawan perished quickly against the Bangladesh pacers. His 108 came off 99 balls and was studded with 12 fours and four sixes, a clear testimony that the 27-year-old from Karnataka can pace his innings with clinical precision.
It was Dhawan's sheer experience in pressure matches and his amazing partnership with Rohit Sharma that made him a sure-shot for the World Cup. Dhawan justified that faith with a well-paced century against Australian but then a sportman's life can see the worst of turns in the best of times.
Rohit and Dhawan have scored 4,681 runs together in 103 innings, averaging 45.89, the fourth-highest by any opening pair in ODI history. But one never falls back on records to find solution for an emergency situation. Here's exactly where the collective wisdom of the selectors and the team management in UK will matter. India face New Zealand in Nottingham on June 13 and Pakistan in Manchester on June 16.
Window Of Oppurtunity
A massive window of opportunity has thus opened for Rahul. Looking at India's packed schedule in 2019-20, Rahul can establish himself as an able opener and he is perfectly placed to do so given his approach and temperament are custom made to build an innings, a trend that was noticed during the first 15 overs against the Australians. He has an average of 34.54 in ODis and his best score – an unbeaten 100 – came against Zimbabwe in June 2016 as an opening batsman.
Rahul's promotion as an opener will open up the race for the No. 4 slot. While Vijay Shankar may get an opportunity but a lot will depend on how India negotiate the first 10-15 overs of their innings. Against Australia, India's openers batted till the 23rd over and Hardik Pandy was promoted to No 4 and Dhoni batted at 5. Pandya's 48 off 27 balls was a gamechanger as India won by 36 runs.
Against the Kiwis, Indian will face a trial by seam and swing in Nottingham. New Zealand are riding a wave created by their pace attack consisting of Matt Henry, Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult and Colin Grandhomme. But Trent Bridge has traditionally favoured the batsmen and that should be great news for Rahul, who will be itching to improve his ODI record in England and prove why Kohli calls him a "class" player.