Virat Kohli’s aggregate in this World T20 is more than the combined scores of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh.
India is the only team among the four semi-finalists whose openers haven’t even crossed 30. And between them, Dhawan and Sharma average only 11 in the four matches so far.
The aforementioned facts highlight how Kohli has literally carried the team to the semi-finals. They also drive home the fact that India’s much-celebrated openers have come a complete cropper. That should keep MS Dhoni worried, more than Raina’s loss of form.
Between the two, Sharma is definitely more talented. He has a better variety of strokes, can hook or pull effortlessly and is a dependable fielder. There is a touch of lethargy to his strokes, something we know as ‘lazy elegance’. But frankly, when a Kohli shows equal commitment to both groundstrokes and running between the wickets, it should be an eye-opener for even the best batsman in the team. And despite his two ODI double centuries, Sharma isn’t the best batter in the squad.
Dhawan is in the mould of Sehwag --- the hand-eye co-ordination batsman who relies purely on instinct and is more limited than Sharma in terms of range of strokes. The problem with Dhawan, however, is his inconsistent approach. He normally approaches bowlers with the single strategy of ‘hit out or get out’ and when that fails, sometimes tries to plod around and wastes deliveries as a result.
Dhawan’s saving grace is that big knock he produces just when his neck on the line, like in the Asia Cup final against Bangladesh. But in such a short tournament, can India afford to wait for Dhawan’s law of averages?
India currently don’t have openers as good as Sharma and Dhawan in this format. But they seem to be shooting themselves in the foot by not adhering to any strategy. In the four matches India have played, the maximum time the openers spent together was 36 balls, against Bangladesh at Bangalore that has possibly the smallest boundaries. That was the only match India batted first.
India’s opening partnerships in the other matches lasted 23 balls (Australia), 13 balls (Pakistan) and just five against New Zealand. In all three matches, India’s openers didn’t give themselves the luxury of exploiting the fielding restrictions during the complete quota of the Powerplay.
It shows that chasing is where Dhawan and Sharma may need to rethink their plans. Even without a plan, the best way to go about is like Kohli --- nudge around the ball for singles and twos and wait for that loose delivery.
There have been times when either opener went hammer and tongs, and sometimes even both. A measured approach in Mumbai might hold them in good stead. But in a format that made such a great fast bowler like Dale Steyn look pedestrian, there is a need to keep adapting. The quicker Sharma and Dhawan realise that, the better for India.