It Is Time For Kohli To Replace Dhawan As T20I Nf? > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - Is it time for Kohli to replace Dhawan as T20I opener?
"As far as going hard in the beginning, we have the team and we have a lot of depth in the team so that we can afford to go a little hard," Vikram Rathour, India's new batting coach stated in his first media interaction. With the World Cup done and dusted, and India's focus now shifting to the T20 WC to be held in Australia late next year, they are set out to find their best pool of players. They are scheduled to play 25-30 games in the format in the build-up to the mega event Down Under in 2020.
Talking of the 50-over World Cup, India's biggest strength was their top three comprising of skipper Virat Kohli and openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan - all of them among the finest batsmen ever to play ODI cricket, not just for India but across all countries. India largely took T20 Internationals as an extension to ODIs and with two major 50-over ICC events in the last two years, the same personnel was deployed in both formats. In their preparation for the T20 WC, the initial talks have been regarding the same top three - whether they should do away with the incumbent top three who bat with the same tempo and should they reconsider their batting strategy at the top, as Rathour mentioned.
Top three in T20Is post WT20 2016
* The data is for matches between Full Member teams only
India's top three has a strike rate of 139.71 in the 47 innings they batted since the completion of T20 WC in 2016, which happens to be just 1.5 points below that of the table topper England's 141.21. India traded the quick runs in exchange for consistency and let the top order face the bulk of the 120 balls to set a huge score. India's top three scored four hundreds (three by Rohit and one by KL Rahul) with an average of 34.31 - comfortably the best among all teams.
So where do the problems arise? Digging in a little deeper, India's run rate in the Powerplay is 8.26 which is only sixth-highest among the Full Member teams, even below what lower-ranked teams like Ireland, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka have managed. England lead the list with a run rate of 8.64 in the first six which puts India's rate just about par. In the two games against South Africa, they scored 47/1 and 54/1 in the batting Powerplay - just about par for the course.
How teams fare in overs 1-6 (post WT20 2016)
* The data is for matches between Full Member teams only. BpW - Balls per wicket, BpB - Balls per boundary
Apart from Rohit and Dhawan, India have tried Rahul mostly to open the innings. Rohit has a strike rate of 133.48 in the first six overs and Dhawan 134.50. In 14 innings he opened, Rahul's strike rate is 124.54 in Powerplays while Kohli scores at 126.18 batting mostly at one drop. In all likelihood, Rathour would have meant that he needs one of the top-order batsmen to go a little harder when the field is up at the start of the innings.
The Shikhar Dhawan question?
1413 runs at 27.70 and a strike rate of 129.87 with nine fifties. These numbers stacked by Dhawan in his 54 T20I appearances for India are quite a far cry from the ODI batsman he is - 5518 runs at 44.50 and strike rate of 94 runs per 100 balls with 17 centuries. It won't be off the mark to say the reputation of Dhawan, the ODI batsman, often spills over to the shortest format where hasn't been at his best.
Dhawan had an excellent 2018 in T20Is scoring 689 runs at 40.52 (SR 147.22) - the most by any player in the format in a single calendar year. He hit six fifties in 17 innings in 2018 compared to just three in 37 innings outside 2018. Barring 2018, in none of the other years has Dhawan out-scored the rest of India's top six - as can be seen from the graph below - which suggests he has been a below-par batsman for the majority of his career in the shortest format.
Unlike Rohit and Rahul, Dhawan doesn't really step on the accelerator once he gets settled down in the Powerplay overs, as the strike rates post the first six overs testify. Dhawan's strike rate of 134.50 improves only marginally to 142.90 after the field gets spread out. The non-Powerplay strike rates of Rohit and Rahul read 169.53 and 167.44 respectively - an increase in excess of 36 - compared to just around eight for Dhawan.
Will India be better served if Kohli promotes himself to open?
Kohli has scored more runs, hit most fifties and averages more than anyone who played a substantial amount of games in the T20I format. The question the team management should ask is 'will India be better served if Kohli opens the innings in place of Dhawan?' With balls available at a premium in this format, won't it be a smarter option if India have two of their best batsmen in the format - Rohit and Kohli - to face the maximum number of deliveries?
Kohli has opened the batting five times in T20Is since April 2016, which came across three different series but with little success - 100 runs in five innings at 20.00. The sample size is clearly too small to arrive at a conclusion. The next best source to gauge his effectiveness as an opener is the IPL, which is closest in terms of quality to T20 Internationals. In the last seven years in the IPL, Kohli has scored 3773 runs from exactly 100 innings - he hit more runs and more hundreds than any other player in the tournament.
Of the 100 innings he batted, 55 came as an opener where he scored 2245 runs at an average of 52.21 and a strike rate of 143.63. He crossed fifty in 20 of these knocks and all of his five three-figure scores in IPL came as an opener. To put it in perspective, David Warner - arguably the greatest opening batsman in IPL history - averages 52.98 in the same period from 67 innings with two hundreds. In the 45 innings at number three and four, Kohli's average and scoring rate dip to 36.38 and 130 respectively.
Kohli has preferred to start his innings with the field up which has suited his style of play of picking the gaps initially to get going. In the 55 innings he has opened the batting, Kohli has scored at 129 in the first six overs. He has been dismissed 21 times inside the Powerplay - which means out of the 34 instances he survived, he has scored 50-plus 20 times, underlining his ability to notch up big scores consistently when he gets off to a start. He strikes at 141 in the post-Powerplay overs, making him the perfect foil for the batsman at the other end to attack - be it Rohit whom he shares a great rapport while batting or the big hitters to follow like Rishabh Pant or the Pandya brothers. In an interview with the host broadcaster Star Sports ahead of the Mohali T20I, Kohli had hinted he is willing to bat wherever it suits the team best.
Where does that leave Rahul?
According to cricket analytics provider Cricviz, Rahul is the second-best batsman for India in T20 cricket, but he has struggled to find a place in the playing XI more often than not. Despite averaging 42 and scoring at 148 with two centuries in T20Is, Rahul has featured in only three out of the ten matches India played in 2019. This despite a splendid IPL 2019 where he finished with 593 runs at 53.90, only behind David Warner's 692 runs.
Rahul has been one of India's consistent players in the T20 format since the start of IPL 2016. In 70 T20 appearances in this period, he has scored 2548 runs at an average of 48 and a strike rate of 147 runs per 100 balls including three centuries. Majority of these innings has come as an opener (48) but in the 17 innings he batted at number three and four, his numbers are a touch better as the table below reveals.
He has scored two hundreds playing for India - 110* against West Indies in 2016 and 101* against England in 2018 came while batting at four and three respectively. While he has had good success as an opening batsman, the numbers show he does have the game to succeed in the middle order as well.
Does it leave India's lower middle-order too fragile?
One counter-argument to having Kohli and Rohit opening together is that it leaves India's middle order a little weak on experience. Neither Shreyas Iyer nor Manish Pandey have yet sealed their spot and are predominantly top-order batsman in the domestic sides they play for. While Pant and Hardik Pandya have been huge success stories in IPL and domestic T20s, they are yet to replicate the same in Internationals.
If India suffer a top-order collapse - which led them to their downfall in the final of Champions Trophy and the World Cup semifinal - it would leave them with an inexperienced middle order to bail them out, especially with MS Dhoni's future in the format uncertain. India, much like in the ODIs, have been a top-heavy team in the shortest format as well. Of the 28 times their top three cumulatively scored 100 or fewer in an innings, they went on to lose half the number of games - 14. On the other hand, of the 18 instances of their top three scoring more than 100, they won 17 while losing just one.
On personnel and current form, it was a given that India would finish among the top four in the 50-over World Cup which they duly did, but they were left ruing a lack of Plan B once their top order failed in the knockout. The team management would have taken notice of it and would want to address the issue sooner than later in their build-up to the next ICC global event. For now, India do have the personnel to succeed and it's just about giving them enough opportunities in crunch situations to prove their mettle.
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