Bangladesh v India, World T20, Group 2, Mirpur March 27, 2014

Technique, expectations challenge India openers

With India's bowling coming good in the World Twenty20, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan have not been tested but they need to sort their techniques and mindsets to match their ODI successes

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Manjrekar: Worried about India openers' form

Few gave India a chance going into the Champions Trophy last year. They had chosen a young squad over a few established names, and had a fresh pair of openers. One of them was making a comeback to the one-day side, albeit after a spectacular Test debut. The other had only recently been converted into an opener following several underwhelming years in the middle order.

Few would have expected Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma to start the Champions Trophy with partnerships of 127, 101, 58 and 77. It was even more of a surprise than India's roaring bowling form has been in the World T20 so far. Dhawan and Rohit went on to establish themselves as the first-choice limited-overs opening pair for India. They average nearly fifty in ODIs and have ten fifty-plus stands in 31 innings.

In the World T20, the expectations have ratcheted up significantly from the duo. They have become a hit pair in one limited-overs format, and are expected to carry that success into the shorter one as well. The bowling surprise has meant that they have not really been tested so far, and India will be hoping they will deliver when they come up against one, which will surely happen at some stage in the tournament, if not against Bangladesh on Friday.

While they may have spent plenty of time together in the middle in ODIs, Rohit and Dhawan had only one opening stand in T20s coming into this world event, worth 12 runs against Australia in October last year in Rajkot. India do not play much international T20 cricket, and the dynamics of opening in ODIs and T20s are vastly different.

Rohit is not a natural opener, and it is well known now that he likes to take his time in ODIs, occasionally at the cost of the flow of an innings. He has opened in T20s before - in the 2009 World T20 - but most of his innings previously in the format have come in the middle order. He made 24 off 21 before falling against Pakistan but once he got in against West Indies, he ensured he remained there until the end, finishing on an unbeaten 62 off 55. He's largely done what was required of him in those chases, especially against West Indies. As Rohit will know, his real challenge will come when he will not have the leeway of a benign asking-rate, especially if India's bowlers have an overdue off-day and he is handed a stiff chase.

Dhawan has a bigger challenge. Against Pakistan, he charged at Umar Gul and heaved a top-edge off a short ball once more but that is not his challenge. It can be argued he will have no choice but to attack the short ball in this format, and will have to make do with his tendency to get out in doing so. It is spin he has to combat. Mohammad Hafeez had a leg before appeal against Dhawan off the first ball the batsman faced in an unconvincing effort against Pakistan. Against West Indies, he was given leg-before off the third ball against Samuel Badree, although it was a poor decision with the ball appearing to miss leg. Like he did against Badree, Dhawan often gets cramped on the back foot and becomes vulnerable to the incoming or straighter delivery. It is not even a question of blocking away such balls; he is often too late bringing down his bat on them.

With tougher tests lying in wait, what Rohit and Dhawan will have to fall back on is the mutual understanding they have developed since June 2013, according to Rohit.

"When you have the right combination going around and you've batted for a while, together, you understand each other very well," Rohit said. "These things really matter when you play the short format. All those little things like running between the wickets and taking singles really matter. We've had a good understanding and a good run for the last year or so.

"The team expects a lot of us because we're the ones who set the tone for the games. It's important for us to take on that challenge. It's very important what you do in the first six overs in this format - whether you bat or bowl. As openers, it's important we give the team a good start. We know we've got a good middle order to capitalize."

That is the difference between the Champions Trophy and the World T20. The team, as well as the fans, now expect "a lot" from Rohit and Dhawan. Those expectations are about coming good on a night when India will dearly need them to.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on March 28, 2014, 8:07 GMT

    give shami a break and try a newer bowler. He has been playing consistently for the last 4 months and as a result his performances have faded. Same can be said about jadeja. India cannot afford to play with too much fear. pick rahanee as opener replacing rohit/dhawan and maybe try another middle order batsman. Their next game is against bangladesh so time to make some logical experiments. who will be a fast bowler if shami gets injured. Potential openers that might replace rohit/dhawan if they lose form or get injured. What happens if for physical/personal reasons jadeja can't play. Who will be able to field as well while bat and bowl decently. These questions need to be answered.

  • Dummy4 on March 28, 2014, 8:06 GMT

    Why can't we have a new opening pair??? The present ones are struggling and taking a lot of time to come to terms. New opening pair needs to be tried and given chance. Get Rahane and Binny in place and give them chance please. Rohit Sharma had given more chances than anyone else in world cricket history. India's motto should be simple - Perform and Deliver OR Go Out !!!

  • Peace on March 28, 2014, 8:00 GMT

    Most of the Indian fans are talking about Binny. WHY? He is yet to prove in International arena, and how can we ask MSD to pick him up instead Yuvi in this major tournament? At least talk about Rahane, Rayudu. These guys has some exp in international matches, and have proved many times in IPL too. If at all we need to replace Yuvi in middle order , then I would go with Rayudu. Else push Rohit to 4th place, and place Rahane to open along with Dhawan. First of all we do not have any Bowling problem for now, and why do we need Binny services as a bowler? No SENSE AT ALL. we have Ashwin, Mishra, Raina, Jadeja, Bhuvi, Shami. 6 bowlers already there. WHY BINNY ?

  • raj on March 28, 2014, 7:50 GMT

    Fans calling for PUJARA & REHANE's inclusion in T20/ ODI's. PLEASE STOP!! Both, Rehane & Pujara are great prospects in TEST cricket - Pujara is already a success and Rehane seems to be on the right path. India should not adulterate the shorter formats with the development of these two potentially great TEST batsmen. The likes of Dhawan, Raina and Kholi are suited to the shorter formats whose Test batsmanship will not be compromised (all that much).

  • Umesh on March 28, 2014, 7:30 GMT

    I think the existing batting order is perfect for this tournament. If MSD is not going to use yuvi's bowling, then he should be replaced by binny as his diddly doddly pace (slow medium) bowling with very good variations will come handy in angla conditions.

  • Peace on March 28, 2014, 6:03 GMT

    Indian Semis chances are not be confirmed yet even if the win against Bangladesh. Quite possibility that India could not even make it into semis. The below is the scenario. Australia Beating WI, Bangladesh, India(with big margin) with 6 points. Pakistan Beating Aus(done), Bangladesh, WI with 6 points India Beating WI(done), Pak(done), Bangladesh and loosing to Aus with big margin - puts them with 6 points. ---- If WI beats Australia or Pakistan then we are 100% in semis with either 1st or 2nd place depending on India vs Aus match. BUT WI can be beatable by Pak and Aus easily and India could loose to Aus. So India should improve their NRR if they are with equal points with Pak and Aus. ---- Recent Example:- Irland was the team about to qualify for T20 WC, next was Zim, but surprisingly Dutch team made it. Irland played good cricket through all the matches, except just 20 overs vs Dutch and they lost the chance to qualify for T20 WC.

  • Dummy4 on March 28, 2014, 5:48 GMT

    For this tournament this batting order is good, becuase it is not good to change the batting order in middle of such a huge tournamnet. But from the next tournament it should be 1. Ajinkya Rahane 2. Shikar Dhawan 3. Virat Kohli 4. Rohit Sharma 5. Suresh Raina 6. MS Dhoni 7. Ravi Jadeja 8. Amit Mishra 9. R. Ashwin 10. Bhuvi. Kumar 11. Mohd. Shami. 12. Umesh Yadav 13. Varun Aron 14. Robin Uttappa 15. Irfan Pathan. this is also squad for World cup 2015.

  • Dummy4 on March 28, 2014, 4:01 GMT

    Replace Shikar with Binny who has been good for the royals. Rohit has been running into some form while Dhawan has looked out of sorts. The other option is to have Rahane for Shikar as Rahane also opens in T20. Yuvraj - or get in binny at yuvi's expense. Yuvi should be in only if he bowls. Also when is MSD going to try out other players?

  • Android on March 28, 2014, 3:14 GMT

    See one thing for sure I agree that yuvaraj has not been in his form so far but any player needs confidence from the team in those situations and I hope he will surely come with a bang in coming matches. Speaking to opening combination as far is now is concerned its foolish to change the winning combination right now. If India qualify for semis after this match then they can try some other options too. When it comes to Dhoni, You all know what he can do in knockout stages and in finals. Atlast if India qualify for semis, there will be no stopping them and Dhoni will be having 4th Icc trophy under hos belt

  • Yogesh on March 28, 2014, 3:06 GMT

    Rahane and Dhawan would make a great opening pair, with Rohit down to #5, where he fits in more naturally. But with everyone in the Indian camp having fallen victim to mindless sentimentality in including a has-been like Yuvraj in the team, that won't work. Better to sacrifice the team's interests and maybe even the trophy so that we can continue to lionise someone for his past deeds and ignore the deadweight he brings to the current team.

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