World Cup 2023: What will be the ideal combination for India in Shubman Gill's absence?
India have a significant setback even before their campaign could begin, as the young sensation Shubman Gill is reportedly down with dengue and unavailable for the first World Cup game against Australia. Gill has been India’s most consistent ODI batter this year, and his absence will definitely weaken the batting unit. However, the medical emergencies are never in anyone’s control, and India would have to find an alternate to replace Shubman Gill.
India have several options to complete their XI without Gill in this World Cup. They can open with Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli while accumulating Shreyas Iyer a position above and slot him at No. 3. While Virat’s 23.71 average and 65.09 strike rate don’t paint an inspiring picture, he is a capable batter at any position, especially when in form.
Shreyas Iyer has a terrific record while batting one down. In 11 ODI innings, he has 642 runs at an average of 58.36 and a 97.71 strike rate. Iyer has also amassed six fifties and a century. Ishan Kishan, who inspired ample confidence as a middle-order batter, can come at No. 4, or the management also has the option of KL Rahul for this position, with Kishan taking the No. 5 spot.
KL is a flexible batter who can bat anywhere the team requires. Rahul has 481 runs at an average of 60.12 and a strike rate of 88.41 in 11 ODI innings at No. 4. He has also made two fifties and as many centuries while arriving after two wickets.
Suryakumar Yadav also batted brilliantly against Australia and showed his calibre to bat in the lower middle order. He can also take the No. 5, or Hardik Pandya can step ahead to vacant the No. 6 for Suryakumar Yadav. That’s the ideal spot for Suryakumar, as he thrives when the deliveries are less in this format.
While these are all the options, the best move will be to simply make Ishan Kishan open, with all the other batters retaining their original places. Ishan is in the team as a floater who will bat according to the team's requirements. Rahul Dravid also confirmed the same a few weeks back.
“Of course, with someone like Ishan - he has been picked also as someone who can do both roles. He has done the middle-order role for us. But he is that spare batsman in the team who can bat up the order, as we have seen as well,” stated Dravid ahead of the Australia series last month.
Ishan Kishan is also an opener, naturally and won’t complain if slotted to open the innings. While starting the team’s innings, Kishan has 448 runs at an average of 74.66 and a strike rate of 125.13, including three fifties and a famous century. The southpaw also hits a boundary every 5.42 deliveries.
If Kishan opens, Rohit can play second-fiddle in the first field restrictions, with Kishan throwing his bat for extra risk shots. Kishan’s strike rate of 83.88 and balls-per-boundary ratio of 7.80 might not be as high, but he can bat much quicker if required. The last few months have shown Ishan’s adaptability and game awareness to be flexible and accomplish his job according to the game situation.
Despite his recent improvements, Ishan Kishan struggles against the spinners early on. So, on a track expected on the slower side, Kishan might find himself at home against the pacers in the powerplay. He will attack them and provide a steady start before the other batters do their thing.
Ishan Kishan can also weave long innings if he doesn’t get dismissed. That double ton against Bangladesh showed it. So, India would be in a win-win situation by opening with Ishan Kishan.
Kishan’s opening would mean India won’t have to shuffle the whole lineup. It’s not that Kishan has never opened, either. So, the ideal thing would be to open with Rohit Sharma and Ishan Kishan simply, and once Shubman Gill returns, Kishan will sit out unless he has to bat in the middle order for any reason.