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Can KL Rahul make India comeback as opener or will Shikhar Dhawan take over?

Hindustan Times logo Hindustan Times 05/10/2017

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The last time KL Rahul was at the JSCA International Cricket Stadium in March, the 25-year-old batsman was riding a purple patch. His 67 against Australia, who he would be facing in the T20I series, was part of five successive half-centuries in Tests.

However, a shoulder injury and surgery stalled his progress. He made a return for the Sri Lanka tour in August but had a new challenge – adjusting his batting to cater to India’s need of a stable middle order in ODIs.

Complete coverage: Australia's tour of India

He failed to make an impression and could not find a place in the XI for the Australia ODI series at home. As the T20Is beckon, he would hope to return to his opening slot, a position which has seen him score a century in all three formats.

However, with the inclusion of Shikhar Dhawan in the T20I squad, the question is whether Rahul would have to make way at the top. Dhawan had a good away tour in Sri Lanka, scoring three centuries, before his wife’s illness forced him to return home.

He was not part of the Australia ODI series too, but Rahul’s poor form might make a place for him in the XI.

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Further competition

Rahul is integral to the team management’s plans, particularly with the 2019 ICC World Cup less than two years away. “He is too good a player to sit out,” MSK Prasad, chief selector, had said in August.

Rahul faces stiff competition from the likes of Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav and even Ajinkya Rahane for a place in the ODI XI.

Though Rahul likes to open, Rohit Sharma and Dhawan are the No 1 choice in ODIs. Rahane was also used as an opener in the Australia series, and scored four half-centuries.

Watch: Dhawan set for a comeback in T20s

Replay Video

That leaves Rahul with one option – adjusting in the middle order. However, before that he would hope to get back to form in the limited-overs format, with Prasad announcing that by December the World Cup core group might be decided.

In the three ODIs he played after recovering from the shoulder injury, Rahul could not go past 20 once. All three matches were away ties against Sri Lanka.

Limited opportunities

With India playing six more ODIs (vs New Zealand and Sri Lanka) and nine T20Is (vs Australia, NZ and SL) in 2017, Rahul would be keen to make a point in the limited opportunities he gets.

The management gave Pandey a longer run in the ODIs and he has shown potential, scoring two half-centuries against Sri Lanka. Jadhav too has got a long rope, his off-spin being seen as a plus.

In this situation, Rahul would hope to return to form and the T20Is against Australia would be the perfect platform.

Rahul started the innings with Rohit in the one-off T20I against Sri Lanka recently and batted in the similar position with Virat Kohli against England in the home T20I series in February.

He has proven himself as a T20I opener, but there is competition.

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