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Gambhir: 'There's no discussion; Kishan should be Rohit's opening partner in ODIs'

Former batter doesn't pick KL Rahul in first-choice ODI XI: "Probably he'll be a back-up wicketkeeper and a back-up batter"

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
Gautam Gambhir, the former India batter, is clear Ishan Kishan, and no one else, should be India's first-choice opener alongside Rohit Sharma in ODIs for the foreseeable future.
Kishan converted his maiden ODI century into a career-best 210 in his most recent outing in Bangladesh earlier this month. Now, with Shikhar Dhawan out of the ODI squad, Gambhir believes Kishan should be persisted with.
"I'm amazed we're discussing this, because someone's got a double-hundred in the previous innings," Gambhir said when asked who he would like to see as Rohit's opening partner. "The discussion is over. It has to be Ishan Kishan. Someone who can get a double-hundred in those conditions against a reasonable attack - especially at [their] home - should play.
"He got what 200 by the 35th over mark? You can't look at anyone beyond Ishan Kishan. He has to be given a longer run. He can also keep wickets as well, so he can do two jobs for you. So for me, that discussion shouldn't be there. If someone else had got a double-hundred, I think we would've gone gung-ho over that individual, but it's not the case with Ishan Kishan. Because we still continue to talk about other players. For me, that debate is over."
Gambhir also believes Suryakumar Yadav can be an asset at No. 4, despite his 50-overs record so far not having been as prolific as his T20 numbers. In 16 ODIs, Suryakumar has made 384 runs with just two half-centuries. In his most recent outing in New Zealand, two of his three knocks ended up being scores of 4 and 6.
His Mumbai compatriot Shreyas Iyer has all along been superb in the 50-overs format. In 15 innings this year, Iyer has scored 724 runs at an average of 55.69 and a strike rate of 91.52. His strike rotation and maneuvering spin in the middle overs have been a standout feature of his batting.
"It's very difficult to look beyond Rohit and Ishan Kishan to open the batting, Virat at three, Surya at four, [and] Shreyas at five, because he's been incredible in the last one-and-a-half years," Gambhir said of his ideal India XI. "Yes, he's had issues against the short ball, but he's been able to manage it. You can't be the best against everything but if you're able to manage it and got the numbers going for you, you can't look beyond Shreyas at No. 5 and Hardik [Pandya] at 6."
Does this mean he won't pick KL Rahul in his first XI?
"Probably he'll be a back-up wicketkeeper and a back-up batter," Gambhir said. "See, if you haven't been able to grab the opportunity and someone else has, you have to wait for your turn. I don't think you can look beyond Surya at No. 4.
"Yes, he hasn't got the same numbers what he has in T20Is, but we all know how destructive he can be; especially when you have five fielders inside the ring, he can win you games at No. 4. Shreyas [with] the kind of form he's in and Hardik at six, I think this will be my core. Shubman Gill will have to wait for his opportunity."
"Prithvi Shaw needs to be looked after"
Gambhir was also unequivocal in his support for Mumbai batter Prithvi Shaw, who finds himself in the cold yet again. Shaw hasn't played for India since July last year.
Over the course of his short career, Shaw has had to cope with more than just a loss of form. Ever since he was suspended for a doping violation in 2019, his fitness and lifestyle issues have been under scrutiny.
In March this year, Shaw was reported to have failed a yo-yo test. His score of less than 15 was far from BCCI's prescribed minimum score of 16.5 for men. So far this season, he has largely remained injury-free, and has been a constant presence in the Mumbai line-up.
He was the second-highest run-getter at the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20s, with 336 runs in ten innings at a strike rate of 181.42. His 50-overs numbers were less impactful in comparison. He has begun the ongoing Ranji Trophy slowly, with scores of 13, 6 and 19 in his first two matches.
Asked if the perception that Shaw was hard to manage may have gone against him, Gambhir put the onus on the coaches and selectors to give him guidance and keep him in their plans.
"What are coaches there for? What are selectors there for?" Gambhir asked. "Not to just select the squad or probably to do those throw downs or make them ready for the game. Ultimately it's the selectors and coaches and management who should try and help these guys. Someone like a Prithvi Shaw, we all know the kind of talent he has. Probably they should get him on the right track and that is what one of the jobs of the management is.
"I feel that if that's the case [fitness and lifestyle issues], someone - whether it's Rahul Dravid or the chairman of selectors - should actually have a word with him, give him clarity and keep him around the group. People who should be on the right path should be around the group, so that they are monitored better. Because the moment you leave them apart, they can go all over the place.
"Someone like a Prithvi Shaw, the kind of start he had to his international career and the kind of talent he has, you back a player on talent. Yes, you have to look at the upbringing as well - where he comes from and the challenges he's had as well. It makes even more sense for the management and the selectors to keep him around the mix, and help him get on the right track."
Shouldn't there be onus on the player too?
"One-hundred percent," Gambhir said. "If you're dedicated and passionate enough to play for the country, you've got to be able to get all the parameters right, whether it's the fitness or discipline as well. It's got to be both ways. You've got to give a young boy at least one chance or a couple of chances, and if he still doesn't do that, then he's not passionate enough to play for the country and probably you can look beyond him.
"But if he's willing to put in the hard yards - and I know how destructive he can be; if he can go on to win games for you, whether it's trainers, management, head coach or chairman of selectors, all these guys should take the onus to try and get these young boys walk on the right path."

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo