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T20 World Cup 2024

Who’s leading the race to be India’s opener at the T20 World Cup?

Who will be India's T20 WC opener
by Naman Agarwal 5 minute read

As the race for T20 World Cup selection heats up, here’s where each candidate for the opening slot for the India team stands more than half-way through IPL 2024.

India have a log-jam of options at the top of the order to choose from for the upcoming T20 World Cup. With the squad reported to be announced somewhere near the end of April, it’s a good time to take stock of who stands where in the race to be India’s opener.

READ: Who is leading the race to be India’s wicketkeeper at the 2024 T20 World Cup?

Rohit Sharma

Rohit has been confirmed as the captain of the side, meaning he will occupy one of the two opening spots. Having not had a memorable IPL season in the recent past, Rohit has turned up the heat a notch this year. From eight games, he averages 43.3 (his second-highest ever in a season after 2014), and has a strike rate of 162.9 – the first time he has struck above 150 in a season.

There have been shades of the Rohit of the 2023 World Cup, where he would go all out at the start of the innings. In IPL 2024, he has had a powerplay strike rate of 175.5 so far, easily his best in any IPL season. With a lot of uncertainty surrounding the second opener’s spot, Rohit’s form is a good sign for India.

Yashasvi Jaiswal

Jaiswal is the incumbent opener, having partnered Rohit at the top in the T20I series against Afghanistan just before the IPL. However, his stocks fell through the first half of the season as he failed to cross fifty once in the first seven games. With Virat Kohli and Shubman Gill both having had good first halves of IPL 2024, the pressure was mounting on Jaiswal to deliver, and he did, just in the nick of time.

Against Mumbai Indians in Jaipur, Jaiswal scored his second IPL century, an unbeaten 104 off 60 balls, which has effectively shot his name back up to the top in the race for the second opening spot for the T20 World Cup.

Shubman Gill

Gill has a modest T20I record so far, averaging 25.76 and striking at 147.57 from 14 games. He has, however, been in great form in T20s since the last IPL, having finished as the leading run-scorer last year. He’s had a good start to IPL 2024 as well, scoring 298 runs from eight games at 42.6 and 146.8. Jaiswal’s dip in form and Gill’s consistency might have pipped him ahead of the left-hander for a brief while, especially given the fruitful opening partnership Gill and Rohit share in ODIs. But Jaiswal’s ton against MI has almost certainly pushed Gill back to the reserve opener’s position, for now.

Virat Kohli

Kohli is the leading run-scorer of IPL 2024 more than one month into the tournament. Usually batting at No.3 for India, Kohli has been opening for RCB and has shown greater intent this season than ever. He is striking at 150.4 this year, second only to IPL 2016, where he struck at 152. Inside the powerplay, the strike rate jumps to 152.1, his best in any season in that phase, and against spin, he has struck at 130.1 so far, his best since IPL 2019.

Kohli was potentially the front-runner to partner Rohit at the top till the time Jaiswal wasn’t performing, but the left-hander’s resurgence means Kohli might have to slot back in at his usual No.3 position at the T20 World Cup.

There is, however, an outside chance that irrespective of the form of Jaiswal and Gill, Kohli opens with Rohit to free up a slot in the middle order for a finisher or middle-overs basher in the form of Rinku Singh or Shivam Dube.

KL Rahul

Rahul hasn’t been in a lot of focus. He has gone about his business as usual, scoring 286 runs from the first seven games at 40.9 and 143. There’s no real indication currently that he is being considered as a first-choice opener, but his wicketkeeping abilities will keep him in the hunt and might end up giving him an edge in terms of selection, especially if he pulls off one or two eye-catching knocks. It will allow India to do away with the headache of choosing a middle-order wicketkeeper-batter.

Ishan Kishan

Kishan is another dark horse in the race of openers. Much like Rahul, his wicketkeeping abilities along with the fact that he is a left-handed batter, gives him an edge. So far in IPL 2024, he has scored 192 runs at a strike rate of 168.4, but has not shown much consistency, averaging only 24. Not a first-choice opener in the XI by any means, Kishan can still make it as a backup in the squad.

Abhishek Sharma

Abhishek has lit up IPL 2024 with his no-holds barred approach at the top, facilitating a paradigm shift in the identity of SRH from a bowling-focused team to a batting-heavy lineup. The left-handed opener has scored 257 runs from seven games at a strike rate of 216, and has hit 24 sixes and 18 fours, 16 and 13 of which have come inside the powerplay, a phase where he strikes at an unbelievable 232.9. 

The numbers and the manner in which Abhishek has gone about his batting make him hard to ignore, but India are not known for making bold selections, particularly when it comes to ICC tournaments. Abhishek, who is yet to make his international debut, will be one of, if not the boldest choice made by India in recent times, if he is indeed picked.

Pecking order: Rohit Sharma, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Virat Kohli, Shubman Gill, Abhishek Sharma, KL Rahul, Ishan Kishan.

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