Former selector Devang Gandhi had his apprehensions about Virat Kohli opening and insisted that it would be too early to write a proven performer like Shikhar Dhawan off in a World T20 year. Gandhi opined that a Rohit-Kohli partnership up top is risky as it could end up exposing the middle-order.
A day prior to the first T20 against England, Indian skipper Virat Kohli declared that Shikhar Dhawan was the side’s first-choice back-up opener, and that the southpaw took to the field when Rohit Sharma was rested seemed to indicate that the management were still high on the 35-year-old. However, in the span of four games, Dhawan went from first-choice back-up to a dispensable fifth-choice opener as the management axed the veteran after just one match, fielding three different opening combinations that did not include him.
The overarching feeling amongst the masses is that, particularly with Kohli opening, the management have decided to move on from Dhawan, but former selector Devang Gandhi does not think so. Gandhi, whose tenure as national selector came to an end in late 2020, insisted that he expects ‘proven performer’ Dhawan to be included in the WT20 squad, and added that IPL 2021 will be crucial for the 35-year-old southpaw.
"With the Covid protocols still in place, I will be really surprised if the T20 World Cup squad is restricted to 15. The way things are at the moment, it is about staying in the mix and Dhawan, being a proven performer, will be there in the squad,” Gandhi told TOI.
“The IPL, though, is huge for him, but then, that's true for most of the others as well.”
Post the series win, skipper Virat Kohli hinted that he might continue to open with Rohit in international cricket, but Gandhi was not a big fan of the move. The former selector observed that the tactic won’t work in all situations and claimed that the middle-order might get exposed should India endure a WC 2019-esque top-order collapse come the WT20.
"It's all fine when you're 100-1, but cricket is such a game that you can also be 20-2 in a knock-out game. In such situations, experience in the middle-order becomes very crucial...I believe Kohli at No. 3 is a better option and he can guide the young lot who will be playing their first World Cup.”
Another former selector, Kris Srikkanth, however, disagreed with Gandhi. Srikkanth termed the move to open with Kohli as a positive one and noted that Kohli and Rohit’s impeccable chemistry makes their pairing up top a daunting one for opponents.
"It's already a brilliant team. Kohli has the ability to control the innings as Rohit goes for his shots and once the powerplay is over, the captain's ability to play big shots and manoeuvre strike will be a huge plus,” Srikkanth said.