New Delhi, Jan 11: With India head coach Rahul Dravid confirming that Yashasvi Jaiswal will open the batting with captain Rohit Sharma for the T20Is against Afghanistan, former left-handed batter Suresh Raina backed the move, adding that Virat Kohli should bat at number three when he joins the team after the series opener in Mohali.
Though Dravid hasn’t ruled out the possibility of Rohit and Kohli opening the batting on the eve of the T20I series opener, having an attacking left-handed opener in Jaiswal is an asset for the side looking to embrace an aggressive style of batting. In recent times, Jaiswal has set the agenda in the power-play by attacking from the word go and putting the opposition bowlers under pressure.
Since his T20I debut against West Indies in August 2023, Jaiswal’s power-play strike-rate stands at 158.69 in 14 innings. Shubman Gill’s strike rate in power-plays of T20I stands at a pale 114.63, while that of Rohit and Virat stands at 134.24 and 116.75 respectively, which tells the tremendous impact Jaiswal can have as an opener for India, especially in the first six overs.
“I think Yashasvi should open the innings, as the left-right batting combination at the top becomes very crucial. He plays with a lot of fearlessness and the quality he’s having in his shots is something which we all have seen in the recent times. So, he should be opening the innings as it also becomes challenging for the bowlers too.”
“Bowling to a left-right opening pair means bowlers will be changing their lines and lengths constantly. Plus, both Rohit and Yashasvi are aggressive and the way they play in Mohali will give Rahul (Dravid) bhai a good idea on who should be batting at which number. If Rohit and Yashasvi open the innings, it will be great for the team,” said Raina, an Expert for broadcasters JioCinema and Sports18, in a virtual media interaction.
In Mohali, Gill might bat at three in Kohli’s absence. But once the talismanic batter returns, Raina expects Kohli to bat at three. “I would prefer for Virat to bat at number three as Rohit-Yashasvi opening combination forms a good option at the top. In the past, we had the pairing of Virender Sehwag-Gautam Gambhir and Sachin Tendulkar-Sourav Ganguly at the top.”
“Plus, with Rohit and Yashasvi being attacking batters, Virat coming at three will give solidity to the batting order. He runs very well between the wickets, and is always busy in keeping the scoreboard moving. If the management feels that Virat should open, then Yashasvi can bat at three. But if Yashasvi opens the batting, he will show good intent at the top and I feel Virat can then bat at number three.”
The return of Rohit and Kohli for T20Is has been the talk of the town ever since the squad for Afghanistan series was announced. The duo last played T20Is when India lost to England by ten wickets in the T20 World Cup semi-final at Adelaide.
Their selection for the Afghanistan series, with the T20 World Cup to be held in USA and West Indies in June, raised questions over how the team balance would be affected and whether it was a step in the backward direction. Raina, the only India batter to score a century in Men’s T20 World Cup, thinks experienced players like Virat and Rohit are needed to counter the variety in conditions and pitches on offer at the mega event.
“It’s a very good step to have the senior players, who have played the most T20 matches, back in the team. If you see their recent form, it has been very good. Plus, the places where they are supposed to play their T20 World Cup games, will be played on tricky wickets and so, we need experienced players there.”
“Rohit is highly experienced, so as Virat, who is inching closer towards the 12,000 T20 runs mark. Having both in the T20 team will bring a different kind of strength to the Indian team and their vast experiences in this format will matter a lot in terms of playing there on the different and challenging wickets in Caribbean and USA.”
“With these two coming, it gives India a chance of winning T20 WC as they have played in a lot of World Cups in this format and will also benefit the youngsters present in the team. Plus, after playing the ODI World Cup final, they will definitely want to win this T20 World Cup for team India.”
In the spin-bowling department, left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav has been a consistent performer, which means leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi, ranked second in T20I bowler rankings, is far from being a certain starter in the playing eleven.
Add to it, the left-arm spin all-rounder Axar Patel and off-spin all-rounder Washington Sundar, which means India are in a conundrum over their desired spin combination, making the Afghanistan series crucial in getting clarity on this.
“I think India can prefer to go with either of Bishnoi and Kuldeep, depending on how they plan to use Axar Patel. But two spinners will play for sure in this series. I would prefer the pairing of Kuldeep and Bishnoi, but if they need someone to pair up with Axar, then it will be Kuldeep.”
“If they need more of batting, then they can also play Washington. With dew in Mohali, they will play two spinners. But when we build up towards the World Cup, then all four spinners – Kuldeep, Axar, Bishnoi and Washington – can be selected. Depending on the wickets for this series, I will prefer Kuldeep and Bishnoi for sure,” concluded Raina. (IANS)