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Gill or Kishan or Dhawan? India’s six-way battle to find Rohit Sharma’s opening partner for the World Cup

Sarah Waris by Sarah Waris
@swaris16 5 minute read

The rich talent pool in India has meant a steady influx of deserving candidates, but with limited spots up for grabs, the dilemma for the management only increases.

There is no dearth of top-order options in the Indian cricket team. We take a look at six potential players who can open for India in the 2023 World Cup along with Rohit Sharma.

Shubman Gill

What works for him

Is in the form of his life. An incredible talent, Gill made the most of his opportunities in 2022, a year when the senior players gave preference to T20Is instead. He ended with a hundred and four centuries in 12 games, making runs at an average of 70.88 and a strike rate of 103.


His form helped him rise up the pecking order and even oust experienced Shikhar Dhawan from the ODI squad for the Sri Lanka series: he responded with 70, 21, and 116. ODIs are his best format, and his overall game against spin works in his favour. There is little doubt that Gill, Rohit, and Virat Kohli are set to be India’s top three.

What doesn’t

His lack of experience – but only if one has to pick something. Gill is 23, but Kohli played his first World Cup at 22, and Sachin Tendulkar at 18. Gill has already been part of an Under-19 World Cup winning side, in 2018.

Ishan Kishan

What works for him

A left-hander. Kishan recently scored a double ton against Bangladesh at the top of the order, making a case for himself. If India have indeed moved on from Shikhar Dhawan and Rishabh Pant does not regain fitness or form, the XI does not have a left-hander until the No.6. The team that played against Sri Lanka certainly did not.

Gill may be the first choice now, but form, being a left-hander, and being a wicketkeeper makes Kishan’s case strong. Perhaps the second name on the list.

What doesn’t

Team combination. If Kishan plays, it will be at the expense of Gill. Kishan’s List A average of 38.79 is considerably lower than Gill’s 50.12. In a toss-up, Gill is expected to surge ahead in a tailor-made format for him.

Shikhar Dhawan

What works for him

An ICC Trophy beast. Dhawan has formed a successful pairing with Rohit in ODIs, forging nearly 5,200 runs in 117 matches. The right-left combination has worked wonders for the side over the years, with the duo scripting many memorable wins for India. Dhawan is a natural in the format, unlike in T20Is, and his average of 50.97 in wins displays the role that he has played.

He has also found a way to get going in ICC events: he averages 65.15 in the World Cup and Champions Trophy, scoring six hundreds and four fifties in 20 innings, and India might be tempted to back experience.

What doesn’t

Age and strike rate. By the 2023 World Cup, Dhawan will be close to 38. One of the most aggressive batters in the format, Dhawan had a poor 2022, where he averaged 34.40 in 22 games, and most importantly, struck at just over 74. He has seemed to lack that extra fraction of a second against the quicks of late, and has dug in without capitalising on the starts, leaving India without plenty on the board. Gill has been favoured over him recently, and a comeback seems tough.

KL Rahul

What works for him

His partnership with Rohit. Rahul and Rohit are the first-choice openers in Test cricket when fit and were India’s openers at the T20 World Cup as well. Getting them to open in the 2023 World Cup is the easiest choice. They have also tasted success while batting together in ODIs, scoring 1,162 runs together at an average of 83 including a run in the 2019 World Cup when Rahul stepped in for the injured Dhawan. That will also allow India to play an extra middle-order bat.

What doesn’t

Is a solid middle-order batter. Rahul is almost a certainty in the XI, but has better numbers at No.5. Though India have a number of middle-order options like Suryakumar Yadav, Sanju Samson and Pant, Rahul has done well in his chances. He averages 50.61 at five and recently played two contrasting knocks for India down the order against Sri Lanka. He struck at 135 in the first ODI when India needed him to keep the run rate going, and steadied the ship after a top-order collapse in Kolkata, with a 64 not out in 103 balls. However, India may still use him to open in emergency.

Ruturaj Gaikwad

What works for him

Overall List A record. Gaikwad averages 61.12 in all List A games, the highest in the world currently, and ended the recent Vijay Hazare Trophy as the second-highest run-scorer with four hundreds in five games. He has a solid technique, his strokes are easy on the eyes, and has the ability to score big, and it is apparent that ODIs are his best format. India might, thus, be tempted to give him a go sooner than later.

What doesn’t

Doesn’t seem to be in the race. Though Gaikwad has all the tricks in the trade and can push off after getting a start, he has played only one ODI, indicating the team’s plans for him. With a number of players vying for the same spot, India might hesitate to push him over the tried and tested players. With Rohit ageing, his time will come – though almost certainly after the World Cup.

Prithvi Shaw

What works for him

Can be destructive. In List A cricket, Shaw has an average of 52.54 and a strike rate of 123, and his showings in the last three seasons of the IPL indicate how dangerous he can really be. During the first ODI against Sri Lanka in 2021, Shaw scored a quick 43 in only 24 balls to further give a hint of his skills, but played only two more games.

India’s ODI approach, where they look to preserve wickets upfront and then go for the kill, in the end, has often been criticised, and Shaw’s presence would mean that India could go for the hits right from ball one.

What doesn’t

Inconsistency and fitness. Despite being only 22, Shaw has had his fair share of injuries, besides being embroiled in disciplinary issues in his brief career. He has not played an international game for India since July 2021 despite excelling in domestic cricket, and his repeated omissions have reportedly resulted from off-field reasons. Selection for the T20Is against New Zealand, however, opens up doors for him.

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