Rahul to open for India while Dhawan nurses broken thumb
NOTTINGHAM, England (AP) — KL Rahul has been challenged by India batting coach Sanjay Bangar to adjust quickly to opening the innings after Shikhar Dhawan was ruled out of at least their next three Cricket World Cup games.
Bangar confirmed Dhawan broke his left thumb last Sunday against Australia while scoring a match-winning century. His absence is a blow to India.
India is keeping Dhawan, whom it regards as “a precious player,” around for 10-12 days in the hope his thumb responds to treatment.
Dhawan will miss at least the games against New Zealand on Thursday at Nottingham, against Pakistan on Sunday at Manchester, and against Afghanistan the following Saturday in Southampton.
In the meantime, India is bringing over left-hand middle-order batsman Rishabh Pant on standby.
Rahul was picked as the third opener in the squad but was given the vacant No. 4 batting spot after hitting 108 against Bangladesh in their last warmup. He scored 26 against South Africa and 11 not out against Australia.
Because Dhawan and Rohit Sharma are one of the world’s great one-day international partnerships, Rahul’s opportunities to open have been limited. He debuted as an ODI opener in 2016 but last did it for India in January 2017.
“You know you need to negotiate two new balls, but you also understand that there are all these boundary opportunities,” Bangar said on Wednesday of Rahul’s move up the order.
“So it’s a mental adjustment, and any player who is able to do that requires a lot of skill.”
Rahul’s promotion won’t change India’s strategy of slow scoring at the start. Dhawan and Sharma scored only 41 off the first 10 overs against Australia. They waited for the seam to soften after 10 overs, and the change bowlers, and went on to their 16th century partnership.
If Dhawan has to be ruled out later, then Pant will be close for the team to add him officially.
Pant made his debut last October and has played five ODIs for an average of 23.