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As Rohit Sharma flops, opening India’s lone blip on road to 2019 ICC World Cup

Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma not firing in unison is an area to look into as India look to cover all bases with the ICC World Cup just over a year away

cricket Updated: Feb 10, 2018 20:22 IST
Khurram Habib
Khurram Habib
Hindustan Times, Johannesburg
‪‪Virat Kohli‬,‪South Africa national cricket team‬,‪Shikhar Dhawan‬
Rohit Sharma’s poor form in South Africa and the inability of the Indian openers to fire in tandem is the only blip as Virat Kohli’s side build-up to the 2019 ICC World Cup in England. (AFP)

India could not have asked for a better setting to test their strength as they seem to tick every box in the build-up to the 2019 World Cup in England, just over a year away. (INDIA vs SOUTH AFRICA, 4th ODI LIVE UPDATES)

The No 1 ranked side in ODIs is easily one of the two favourites for the mega event. India seem to have all bases covered, which seasoned South Africa batsman JP Duminy acknowledged after the Cape Town ODI by pointing out how balanced the team was. (INDIA vs SOUTH AFRICA, 4th ODI SCORECARD)

Great ODI run

The results achieved by Virat Kohli’s team in the past season have been emphatic. Ahead of Saturday’s ODI at Wanderers, India had lost just four of their 24 ODIs since the ICC Champions Trophy last June.

If one thing should bother them, that is a lack of consistent opening partnerships. Since the Champions Trophy, where India were runners-up to Pakistan, India have tried out three different opening combinations involving Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane.

While they have managed to get seven century partnerships, when they haven’t got going, there has not been a single 50-run partnership. In this series, the best opening partnership has been 33, and the average first wicket partnership less than 20.

Interestingly, Rahane, batting at No 4 in this series and who could be slotted in as opener going forward, has featured in five of those century partnerships. It probably lends weight to skipper Virat Kohli’s preference to keep him as a third opener.

Not clicking in tandem

What is worrying is when Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have opened, only one of them has usually clicked. While it has been all Dhawan this series, the two had taken turns in ODIs at home earlier this season.

Asked about Rohit Sharma’s failure to get going in South Africa, Dhawan had said he has been hitting the ball well and the poor form shouldn’t be of concern as he is just one knock away from success.

The batsmen-friendly Wanderers wicket, with good bounce, was expected to suit his batting style, but Rohit pushed one straight back to bowler Kagiso Rabada, extending his poor form, this time dismissed for five.

These cheap dismissals should worry him because India’s second wicket partnership has done exceedingly well with Kohli and Dhawan making full use of batting-friendly conditions.

First Published: Feb 10, 2018 20:16 IST