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Asia Cup 2022: Find out which can be the ideal opening pair for India

India will open the Asia Cup 2022 stint with the first match against arch-rivals Pakistan on 28 August at Dubai International Cricket Stadium

Posted Date: Aug 19, 2022

Posted By: Bren Gray

Asia Cup 2022: Find out which can be the ideal opening pair for India
Asia Cup 2022: Find out which can be the ideal opening pair for India

Who Will Open for India in Asia Cup 2022?

In a little over 10 days’ time, India will begin their Asia Cup 2022 campaign.

As the defending champions, winning the Asia Cup when it was last played in 2018, the pressure is on India to put in a good performance again. With the T20 World Cup fast approaching in October as well, teams around the world will be scrambling to settle on their best playing XI for the upcoming tournament, and get some games under the belt of those players.

This raises the question: Who will open the batting for India in the Asia Cup 2022?

Coming up against opponents such as Pakistan, who have two of the world’s best three batsmen walking out to the pitch at the start of their innings in Babar Azam and Mohammed Rizwan, India will want to be sure they are equally capable of coming out firing with their opening pair.

We look at the various options India possess in their batting ranks, and who is likely to get the starting two positions.

India Enjoy a Wealth of Depth at the Top of the Innings

Cricketing nations around the world will be green with envy at the depth of batting stock India has managed to curate over the past few years.

Courtesy of a thriving domestic IPL T20 tournament that mandates at least seven of every team’s playing XI are local players, India has developed an incredible array of talented opening batters. Pair this with the fact that India has played 24 T20Is since the last World Cup nine months ago, and the depth in this position is quite remarkable.

To demonstrate how difficult the selection headache will be for India’s coaching staff come the first match of the Asia Cup 2022 on August 28th, here’s a look at every opening batter India has used over the past nine months:

  • Rohit Sharma
  • KL Rahul
  • Ishan Kishan
  • Suryakumar Yadav
  • Shubman Gill
  • Rishab Pant
  • Sanju Samson
  • Deepak Hooda
  • Ruturaj Gaikwad

Add to this Shikar Dhawan and Mayank Agarwal who are fit, healthy options that India has used in the past to open at a T20I level, as well as someone like Virat Kohli who has been known to open from time to time, and India are spoilt for choice when it comes to opening batters.

Of these 12 options, India have elected to include Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Suryakumar Yadav, Rishab Pant and Deepak Hooda in the 15-man squad for the Asia Cup 2022.

Rohit Sharma Locks Up One Opening Batter Position

Despite the fact that India have six quality options to consider at the top of the order, the reality is that Rohit Sharma has one of these positions safely locked up.

As the incumbent opening batter for India over the last several years, as well as the current captain and second highest T20I run scorer in history, there’s no doubt that if Rohit Sharma is fit, he’ll be opening the batting for India in the Asia Cup 2022.

This year, Rohit Sharma has started in the opening batter position for 13 of the 21 T20I matches India have played. Across these innings, he’s scored 290 runs at a strike rate of 140 with an average of 24.16 and a high score of 61. While such middling statistics may not be Sharma’s best, couple these with the fact that his career average is 32.38 at a strike rate of 140 with four hundreds and 27 fifties, and the case for Rohit Sharma’s inclusion in the Asia Cup 2022 playing XI is open and shut.

Expect Sharma to leverage all of his experience in the knockout phase of the Asia Cup 2022, and see India through should they ever find themselves chasing a big total and needing a cool head to stand up.

Who Joins Rohit Sharma at the Top?

With Rohit Sharma securing one of the opening batter positions, that leaves five other batters in the Asia Cup 2022 squad who have the potential to open the batting.

However, this list can quickly be shaved down to a smaller number, given that some of India’s opening batters this year were somewhat experimental.

It’s safe to say that both Rishab Pant and Deepak Hooda aren’t truly in the running to open the batting. Both are quality players, but are more likely to secure a place in India’s playing XI further down the batting order. Pant can play anywhere from three to six, and Deepak Hooda is great to make a cameo at the tail end of an innings, or come in at number three to capitalise on opening momentum, with his strike rate of 161 in T20Is this year.

That leaves a race between KL Rahul, Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav for the final place at the top of the order.

KL Rahul Looking Likely to Open Alongside Rohit Sharma

Despite all of India’s experimenting and building of depth over the last nine months, it looks likely that they will returning to the combination of opening batters that brought them such success in the latter stages of the 2021 T20 World Cup.

While the combination of Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul misfired in their first match against Pakistan, and wasn’t used in the second against New Zealand, it was a thing of beauty in India’s final three matches of the 2021 T20 World Cup.

Against Afghanistan, the pair raced to 140/0 off 14.3, with Rahul going on to score 69 off 48 and Sharma 74 off 47; against Scotland, it was a quickfire 70/0 after 4.5 overs, and Rahul going on to plunder 50 off 19, and Sharma 30 off 16; and the final match against Namibia saw a start of 86/0 off 9.4, with Rahul taking 54 off 36 while Sharma ended on 56 off 37.

These are the kinds of starts that win matches, and winning matches wins tournaments like the Asia Cup 2022. It’s clear that Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul bat well together, and India’s confidence in KL Rahul to be named vice captain of the side for this tournament, as well as captain for their current ODI tour of Zimbabwe, speaks to the coach’s intent.

While Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav are excellent options to open the batting with, both players fit comfortably into India’s batting line up at three or four as well. A top six of Sharma, Rahul, Yadav, Kohli, Pant and Hardik is enough to strike fear into the eyes of any bowling unit, and if India can find a way to include all these batting options, it makes sense that they would.

Expect India to open the Asia Cup 2022 with Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul.