It has been a pitch-perfect start for India the 2019 World Cup campaign. Jasprit Bumrah and Yuzvendra Chahal restricted South Africa to 227 before Rohit Sharma’s fine century secured the win for the Men in Blue. In their next game against 5-time World Champions, Kohli’s men were clinical in all three departments and made it two in two. The best possible start one could as for!
Man of the Match in the game against Australia and India’s best batsman in the last three ICC tournaments, Shikhar Dhawan has reportedly fractured his thumb and is expected to be out for at least three weeks. It is a big blow for India given Dhawan’s consistency and the team’s reliability on their ‘Top Three’.
But in the middle of the World Cup, there is no time to mourn. The brains in the dressing room will have to take a quick decision to resolve the situation with the game against New Zealand less than 48 hours away.
Here are five possibilities India can go ahead with to replace Shikhar Dhawan:
KL Rahul Opens & Karthik/Shankar Comes at No.4
Due to time constrains, this looks like the most obvious option for the game against New Zealand on Thursday. KL Rahul, who found his groove with a century in the warm-up game, is likely to open the inning with Rohit Sharma. The Karnataka batsman is a natural opener but needs to be careful in overcast English conditions.
Dinesh Karthik is likely to take the No. 4 spot if Rahul opens the inning. The wicket-keeper batsman failed to grab his chances in early 2019 against Australia and New Zealand. But with 253 runs in IPL, Karthik, a seasoned campaigner is likely to be preferred ahead of all-rounder Vijay Shankar.
Shankar could of course be given a chance at No. 4 as he proved his batting ability when Australia visited India and in the IPL.
But here’s the thing. India could also decide to go with Rahul, the opener and Karthik/Shankar at No. 4 and wait for Dhawan to recover in time for the last phase of the World Cup. The southpaw is a crucial part of India’s playing XI and if there is a chance that his injury will recover in time for the potential semi-final, team India could go ahead with that gamble.
Of course, keeping Dhawan with the squad and not naming a replacement is a huge risk to take. So if India are to replace the opener once and for all, what are the possible options?
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Shreyas Iyer: From IPL to WC
A number of reports have suggested that exceptionally talented and one of the most stylish Indian batsmen, Shreyas Iyer is in the fray to replace Shikhar Dhawan. It is a mystery for everyone who has watched Iyer play that he has featured in only 6 ODIs for India so far. The Mumbaikar even averages 42 in those 6 innings without any further opportunities.
But Shreyas Iyer was at a different level in the recently concluded IPL. The captain of the Delhi Capitals side, Iyer looked much more mature than his age of 24, in both batting and leadership. He scored 463 runs in 16 innings playing in the middle order – Just what India needs right now.
Iyer is a specialist No. 4 batsman as he has shown in India’s domestic circuit and with India ‘A’. The batsman averages above 50 in First Class cricket and 42 in List A cricket – more than enough to not call his inclusion a gamble!
Rishabh Pant Finally Gets His Wish Delivered!
Rishabh Pant’s exclusion from the World Cup squad came as a shock to many who expected the youngster to be named ahead of Dinesh Karthik. But after just two games of the tournament, the 21-year old is again one of the favourites to replace Shikhar Dhawan.
Pant’s fearless attitude worked in his favour on the Australia tour where the wicketkeeper batsman finished with 350 runs in 4 tests – More than Kohli. But Pant got just two chances in ODIs when Australia visited India where he scored 52 runs at the strike rate of 130.
Shikha OUT the World Cup.
Get Pant on the plane ASAP.
KL Rahul to open and Pant at number 4…
— Kevin Pietersen? (@KP24) June 11, 2019
The southpaw made up for the lack of chances, scoring 488 runs at the strike rate of 162 in the IPL. Pant’s inclusion will allow India to go ahead with a bold option at No. 4. But at the same time, it will put a lot of pressure on India’s top order.
4D Ambati Rayudu Gets a Surprise Recall
There is unlucky, very unlucky and then Ambati Rayudu. The Hyderabad batsman made a strong case for the No. 4 position in the last two years. He even finished as the top scorer of the bilateral series between India and New Zealand in early 2019. Rayudu scored 190 runs in 5 innings at an average of 63 in that series.
And just when it looked like he had all but sealed the No. 4 position, Rayudu had a horrible time when Australia visited India just before the IPL. The 33-year old scored just 33 runs in 3 innings and India decided to go ahead with all-rounder Vijay Shankar. And despite his 282 runs for CSK in the IPL, Rayudu missed a ticket to England.
But in what can only be called the sheer stroke of luck, Rayudu might get another opportunity to feature in the World Cup if he replaces the injured Dhawan. The right-handed batsman will be an obvious choice for No. 4 without changing the dynamics of the batting line-up.
Ajinkya Rahane: The Unlikeliest but Sensible Recall
A wild, wild card entry in the list! But while we are considering possible options for No. 4 position, we are trusting KL Rahul to perform at the top. But what if the Karnataka-born batsman fails to deliver?
Ajinkya Rahane is a quality asset to any side with his ability to bat as a floater. If he comes into the squad to replace Dhawan, Rahane could be an option for both opening and No 4 position.
Of course, the 31-year old has not found much success in limited overs cricket but he was Rajasthan Royals top scorer in IPL 2019 with 393 runs in 13 innings. The batman has also been playing for Hampshire in County Cricket for more than a month now and is familiar with the English conditions.
Rahane has scored 194 runs in 5 innings in County, including an inning of 119 runs. His ODI number, although not up to his standards, are decent enough for giving him yet another chance in the World Cup. Rahane has scored 2962 runs in 90 ODIs at an average of 35.