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India v Australia 2023

Explained: Why India promoted Washington Sundar to open in big ODI chase v Australia

Washington Sundar was sent out to open in the third IND vs AUS ODI
by Naman Agarwal 2 minute read

In a surprise move, Washington Sundar was sent out to open the batting during India’s steep run-chase of 353 in the third ODI against Australia in Rajkot. Here is why India might have made the unexpected change.

Ishan Kishan was ruled out of the third ODI due to an illness, which meant India went into the game effectively one batter short and with no designated second opener apart from Rohit Sharma. Sundar replaced Ravichandran Ashwin in the XI along with four other changes from the second ODI.

Batting first, Australia piled on the runs on a typical flat Rajkot track. Each of the top four batters – David Warner, Mitchell Marsh, Steve Smith, and Marnus Labuschagne – scored fifties as they finished with 352-7 from their 50 overs.


All eyes were on the India dressing room during the innings break in anticipation of who would come out to open alongside Rohit. Speculations during and after the toss were that Virat Kohli might play as the stop-gap opener as he did in the 2nd ODI against Bangladesh last year when Rohit was injured while fielding.

The other obvious choice was to promote KL Rahul, who started his career as an opener but has since established himself as a middle-order batter. However, India went ahead with the surprise move of sending Sundar out to open.

Sundar has opened the batting before in white-ball cricket, albeit almost all of his experience has come in T20s. This was his first international outing as an opener.

In fact, it was while opening in the 2016 and 2017 editions of the TNPL (Tamil Nadu Premier League) that he grabbed attention as a batter. His overall T20 batting record as an opener (average 58.1, strike rate 134.8) indicates he has some top-order batting pedigree, which is what allowed the India management to try him out at the top.

Sundar’s move to the top also allowed the rest of the batting order to retain their preferred slots in the batting order. Although the India middle order has shown a lot of flexibility of late, providing them with more opportunity to play in their designated slots ahead of the World Cup has merit. Sundar’s move to the top facilitated that.

It also effectively lengthened the batting order. With no Hardik Pandya, Shardul Thakur, or Axar Patel in the XI, Ravindra Jadeja and Sundar were slotted in at No.6 and 7 on the team sheet, with Kuldeep Yadav at No.8. In a steep run-chase like the one India were faced, having more batting depth is ideal.

Sundar’s promotion meant India would have had Suryakumar Yadav in at No.6 and Jadeja at No.7, providing the rest of the batting order an extra bit of a psychological cushion, allowing them to not be unnecessarily conservative in their approach.

Sundar was eventually dismissed for 18 off 30 balls and didn’t quite have the sort of impact India would have liked, but was able to stitch together a 74-run opening partnership with Rohit in just 10.5 overs, giving India a solid start.

Earlier in the day, Sundar had bowled an economical spell of 0-48 from his 10 overs, in an innings where each of the five bowlers went at over six runs per over.

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