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5 back-up openers for Team India in ODIs

Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan will definitely be India’s first-choice openers. However, there needs to be a strong backup as well.

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Hanuma Vihari
Hanuma Vihari. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

It’s been just a week since India lost the semi-final of the 2019 World Cup. However, the grind hardly stops. After the disappointing loss to New Zealand in the semi-finals, the focus has shifted to the 2023 World Cup which will be held in India.

Hence, it is important to have a strong core and also a strong set of fringe players who can come in and do the job any time. KL Rahul blew hot and cold at the top of the order throughout the 2019 World Cup. Moreover, he started at No. 4 in the tournament.

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Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan will definitely be India’s first-choice openers. However, there needs to be a strong backup as well. Rahul is that backup opener but he hasn’t been at his best. Also, the ‘Men in Blue’ need to look at other options as well. Thus, here are five back-up opening options for India in ODI cricket.

1. Shubman Gill

Shubman Gill
Shubman Gill. (Photo Source: Twitter)

There has been a lot of talk about Shubman Gill in Indian cricketing circles in the recent past. The 19-year-old opening batsman has been consistently scoring runs in all forms of the game. Be it for Punjab (stateside), Kolkata Knight Riders (IPL side) or India A, Gill has been amongst the runs.

It was at the under-19 level that Gill shot into the limelight. From that time, it was very evident that he had the ability to score big. He got some big scores at that level before he translated it into domestic cricket.

Gill has been consistently playing for India ‘A’ and may well be India’s next top-order batsman in the line. In fact, he played a couple of ODIs in New Zealand but they came at No. 3. Hence, he’s had some taste of cricket at the international level.

2. Mayank Agarwal

Mayank Agarwal, cricketing trends
Mayank Agarwal. (Photo Source: Twitter)

If there is one player who deserves a spot in the Indian team irrespective of the format, it has to be Mayank Agarwal. The Karnataka opening batsman has scored a plethora of runs in domestic cricket in the last few years. He has constantly churned out runs in all formats of the game.

Agarwal was rewarded with a spot in the Test team and made his debut in Australia on the Boxing Day Test. He was very impressive in the two-Test matches he played. Moreover, he was called up as a replacement for Vijay Shankar towards the back end of the tournament.

Hence, with Agarwal churning out runs for fun and having made an impressive Test debut, a maiden ODI cap may well be around the corner. With Shikhar Dhawan uncertain for the West Indies tour, Agarwal may make his white-ball debut on that tour.

3. Prithvi Shaw

Prithvi Shaw
Prithvi Shaw. (Photo Source: WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)

Prithvi Shaw is another teenage name that has become common in Indian cricket. The 19-year-old Mumbai batsman made headlines when he made his Test debut. He scored 237 runs in just three innings and was all set to remain India’s first-choice opener in the longest format before he was injured.

Shaw has played just a couple of seasons in domestic cricket and has been very good. He is an attacking player and has the ability to produce fast starts. The right-handed Mumbaikar has a good List A record. He averages 40.17 and has a strike-rate of 114.33. In fact, he scored 356 runs in five innings in the Vijay Hazare Trophy last year. These runs came at a strike-rate of 144.12 and an average of 71.20.

Thus, Shaw has been around for a couple of years now and has shown some great consistency. Thus, he can be a good backup option at the top of the order in ODI cricket.

4. Ruturaj Gaikwad

Ruturaj Gaikwad
Ruturaj Gaikwad. (Photo Source: Twitter)

Ruturaj Gaikwad is another name that is slowly coming up in the Indian cricket. The Maharashtra player made his debut for his state team about three years back and he hasn’t looked back since.

Day in and day out, Gaikwad has scored runs, be it for Maharashtra or India ‘A’. However, his performances generally slip under the radar. However, the Pune-born opener has constantly been churning out runs for India ‘A’. In fact, in his last six innings for India A Gaikwad has six scores in excess of 70.

Thus, he is a very consistent player and has the ability to bat big. In fact, he averages 56.94 and a strike-rate of 100.93 in List ‘A’ cricket. Hence, it could be worth giving him a shot at the top of the order.

5. Hanuma Vihari

Hanuma Vihari
Hanuma Vihari. (Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Hanuma Vihari is someone who has the highest average in first-class cricket among the active players. He is just a tad short of the 60-mark. Hence, this is a quality option.

However, Vihari has hardly opened before in competitive cricket. But he was asked to open the batting in the Indian Test team in the Boxing Day Test last year. Thus, he could well be an option to try at the top of the order. He also has a good 50-over record. The Andhra Pradesh player has amassed almost 3000 runs at an average of close to 47.

Moreover, he can chip in with the ball as well. He bowls some handy off-break and it has proved to be effective in the past. Thus, he could be a utility cricketer in the ODI squad.

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