Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma have been a fantastic opening pair since they were brought together during the ICC Champions Trophy 2013. Their union at top of the order wasn’t all that obvious as the team management tried to blend in Murali Vijay along with Dhawan during the warm-up games in England. But once that experiment failed, Rohit was summoned to open the batting again. And, in their very first outing, against South Africa at Cardiff, they put up 127 and haven’t looked back since.
In the aftermath of the 2011 World Cup victory, India found it tough to get going and had been through a rough phase. Until the World Cup, India’s frontline opening pair in One-Day Internationals (ODIs) was Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar. Although they tried out other combinations in the lead-up, the Sehwag-Tendulkar firm was never threatened and was India’s best bet for the World Cup. However, after the historic triumph, Sehwag struggled with form and fitness while Tendulkar also didn’t match his high standards and missed majority of the games. So, India tried numerous combinations at the top, without much success.
Here is record of the Indian opening partnership from the start of the West Indies tour in 2011 (India’s immediate ODI assignment after 2011 World Cup) until the end of the home series against England in 2013 (India’s ODI series before Champions Trophy):
The record is abysmal for a side that prides itself for its batting. In two years, they recorded only one century partnership and eight fifty-run stands. An average of 29.18 paints the perfect picture of India’s struggle.
But, then came the Dhawan-Rohit firm and things changed. Here is a look at their record:
In only 19 innings together, Dhawan and Rohit have already notched six century partnerships. An average of 65.55 shows how consistent they have been. Although they have only played 19 games, they have come in different conditions — England, West Indies, Zimbabwe and India. The duo has found a way to tackle each condition and have tempered their approach accordingly. In England and Zimbabwe, they had to deal with the early movement a few times, whereas in West Indies, the slow tracks posed a different challenge. In each series, they have taken into account all factors and have built a solid platform.
The great thing about this partnership is that they seem to have assigned roles to each other. Dhawan is the aggressor, while Rohit is the accumulator. Rohit takes his time early on and gets his eye in by watching the ball closely. Dhawan is more imposing early in his innings and laces the off-side with his trademark shots. As the innings progresses, Rohit picks up momentum and almost catches up with Dhawan. By playing the waiting game, Rohit buys time as he has the ability to make up for it.
In the recently concluded series against Australia, Rohit and Dhawan have had two major partnerships of note. The 176-run stand at Jaipur came in the face of a target of 360 and set the tone for Virat Kohli to take over. A similar thing happened at Nagpur when they put up 179. So, even though the target may be huge, these two back their approach and complement each other well. They do have a strong middle-order to do the job, but since they have come together, they have been a huge factor in India’s success.
Now that India have found this pair, they have to back them in the long run and allow them time even if they have the odd rough patch. What this partnership has also done is that it has made things tougher for the likes of Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag to return. Will they now target other berths?
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site's YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)
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