With a host of T20 batting game-changers in the side, India can be expected to consistently compile match-winning scores or chase down tall targets. But for that to happen, the Indian team management needs to know the strength of their batting stars and fix a perfect slot for them in the batting line-up. Getting the batting order right, then, will be biggest challenge for the team in this World T20.
India have played just one T20 International in over a year. In that game against Australia at Rajkot last year, the batting order was: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin followed by the pacers. All of these batsmen are part of the current World T20 squad. Dhoni, not known for radical team selections decisions, might stick to the same combination. But a bit of an experiment wouldn’t harm the team. It could actually do them a world of good.
First the bowling tweak. Wickets in Mirpur are expected to suit the spinners. So instead of playing three medium-pacers, like in Rajkot, Dhoni can field two and accommodate an extra batsman or an additional spinner. If he picks a slow bowler, it has to be the leg-spinner Amit Mishra. The other option at his disposal is to bring in medium pacer Stuart Binny. Adding Binny to the playing XI wouldn’t mean a major shake up. It just will mean a specialist pacer sitting out.
But it is the presence of in-form Ajinkya Rahane in the squad that might make things difficult for Dhoni. It gives him a problem of plenty and a delicious dilemma. In case Rahane gets included, the established order will have to be reshuffled. Rahane has been a regular and also a highly successful opener for his Indian Premier League side, Rajasthan Royals.
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Last season he scored 488 runs for the Royals at the top of the order against some of the best bowlers in the world. In the season before that he made 560 runs. When he made his ODI debut against England in 2011, Rahane was the first to pad up. The Mumbai lad might bat lower down the order in the longer format but in T20 he is very comfortable facing the new white ball. But if Rahane is to occupy the top slot, one of the openers will have to drop down the order.
And that opener could perhaps just be Rohit Sharma. Rohit, who has been opening the batting in ODIs over the past year and a half, has played in the middle-order with a fair amount of success earlier. He occupies a middle-order slot for the Mumbai Indians. He has also proved to be adept in the role of a finisher when he turned out for his previous team, the Deccan Chargers.
Moving Rohit down the order and adding Rahane at the top will result in India fielding eight batsmen, including Jadeja. In this scenario, India will have a plethora of finishers down the order in Yuvraj, Raina, Dhoni himself, Rohit and Jadeja.
“Right now, I am not thinking about any batting number or position,” Rahane said. “I just want to go out there and enjoy my cricket and just back myself. I know that I have been playing well in T20 for Rajasthan Royals batting at the top but here the decision is completely up to the team management. I am not thinking about that. Whatever opportunities I get, I will try and score runs and contribute towards the team.”
The opportunity may be available in one of the two practice games that India will play — the first on Monday versus Sri Lanka and the second on Wednesday versus England.