With Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir out of the Indian team, MS Dhoni & Co are experimenting with various options to strike the right opening combination. Shikhar Dhawan seems to have established his credentials, especially after his magnificent maiden ODI ton against South Africa in the Champions Trophy opener on Thursday.
The second opener’s place is still up for grabs, and unless Gambhir rejuvenates himself sooner than later, Murali Vijay and Rohit Sharma could be fighting for that spot.
On Thursday, Sharma opened the innings for the third time in a row, and registered his second half-century in as many knocks as an opener. Though Dhawan’s ton stole the limelight in India’s 26-run victory, Sharma was very impressive, playing the role of sheet anchor to perfection.
The Mumbai batsman who is notorious for throwing away his wicket attempting reckless stroke-play, waited patiently for the lose deliveries before unleashing his strokes against the Proteas. He relied more on his timing and played with a straight bat on his way to 65 in 81 balls which included eight fours and a six. His former coaches have no doubt that Sharma can become a good opening prospect for Team India.
“He is mature enough to take up the responsibility of an opener. He enjoys batting at the top. His approach has completely changed since he captained Mumbai Indians to the IPL title,” said Sharma’s first coach Dinesh Lad.
Mumbai’s Ranji Trophy-winning team coach Sulakshan Kulkarni said Sharma couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity than this to showcase his talent at the international level.
“This is a golden opportunity for him. He has the pull and cut — two very effective strokes that give an opener the added advantage. Every captain wants to have such players at the top. Dhoni and the coaches must have noticed this, and that is why he is being tried as an opener. He also manages to get that extra time to play his shots,” Kulkarni noted.
Lad said opening is nothing new for Sharma. “He was a successful opener at school level. I know there cannot be any comparisons between school and international level, but even in inter-school matches he would stay at the crease for 35 to 40 overs,” informed Lad.
Sharma has opened for India in six ODIs, scoring 181 runs, including two half-centuries. Kulkarni hoped Sharma would get a long rope as an opener this time. “He has a flexible approach. He should be tried for at least 25 to 30 innings as an opener before coming to any decision,” he concluded.