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IND vs. AFG: Why does India need to reserve a seat at the top for Yashasvi Jaiswal!

IND vs. AFG

When India brought back Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli back into the fold for the Afghanistan series, there was this inevitable question as to where they would bat. With Kohli unavailable for Thursday’s T20I because of personal reasons, India are set to open with Rohit and Yashasvi Jaiswal. But going forward, India head coach hasn’t ruled out the possibility of Rohit and Kohli partnering at the top, a move that totally deviates from the blueprint they have followed for the past 14 months. It also puts a question mark over the place of Yashasvi Jaiswal in the XI, who has by far been their best opening batsman in T20s.

Speaking ahead of the first T20I against Afghanistan in Mohali, Dravid revealed where India stood in terms of the openers, especially when Kohli joins the team in Indore. “Nothing is closed (Kohli opening with Rohit). We have no doubt that the kind of ability and skill sets players like Rohit and Kohli possess, they will be able to find answers against different kinds of bowling,” said Dravid.

If India do put this plan to work, they will once again be without enough ammunition at the top. Sans an X-factor batsman in the top three, the batting powerplay was one of the problematic areas for India in successive T20 World Cups. It is with this aspect in mind that India, post the last T20 World Cup debacle in Australia, adopted a more aggressive, bolder approach by employing Jaiswal at the top. It is a move that has not just worked but has also put less pressure on the middle-order. Now, if India partner Rohit and Kohli at the top, they may have to compromise on this aspect. In the coming days, India have a huge decision to make as to who among Rohit, Kohli and Shubman Gill misses out if they are keen on playing Jaiswal.

So on Thursday, the stakes are high for Jaiswal, who will get another opportunity to remind India what he is capable of. Unlike Rohit and Gill, Jaiswal has better returns in the powerplay and is single-handedly responsible for putting the opposition under pressure from the word go in recent times. Sample these numbers: In 13 innings, Gill’s strike rate in the powerplays is only 114.61. In 109 innings, Rohit’s strike rate in the first six overs is 134.24, and Kohli’s is 116.75.

But in 14 innings, Jaiswal has scored 292 runs in the powerplay at a strike-rate of 158.69. And India has never lost in eight games, where he has crossed the 20-run mark. Out of those eight matches, India has scored 50 or more six times in the powerplay, with Jaiswal himself scoring a fifty once.

When a top-order batsman gives such a start in the powerplay, nearly half the battle is won with the bat, and it only allows the middle-order to play with much more freedom without worrying about run-rate. The brand of T20 cricket that the Indian team has been aspiring to master for the past couple of years comes naturally to Jaiswal who is capable of providing the knockout punch in the first six overs.

Why Jaiswal should be in the playing XI?

One significant change that came with India’s aggressive approach was they believed 200-plus totals should be the norm when batting first. For such module to work, it is essential for India to bat in the top gear from first over till the last as against pressing the accelerator only in the last five overs. The same holds true when they are chasing big totals as well. For India to go all the way in T20 World Cup, they cannot afford to have any weak links.

However, should they go in with Rohit, Gill and Kohli — who are anchor material in T20s — as their top three, they will be short on firepower and will be without a left-hander at the top. Apart from making the most out of the fielding restrictions, Jaiswal has also shown he can also manipulate the field easily ond find the gaps onec the powerplay is over.

In the last T20I they played against South Africa, despite losing Gill and Tilak Varma cheaply, Jaiswal ensured India ended up with 62/2 in the powerplay. In the first T20Is against Australia that was played just after the ODI World Cup, chasing 209, India got home with one ball to spare. Although it was Ishan Kishan, Suryakumar Yadav and then Rinku Singh in the backend who played a pivotal role in India’s win, the kick-start was given by Jaiswal with his blazing 8-ball 21 at the top.

IND vs. AFG

In the second match of the same series, while batting first, Jaiswal scored fifty (53 runs in 25 balls), with India scoring 77 for 1 inside the powerplay.

Since the next T20 World Cup will be played in the Caribbean and the USA, let’s go back to India’s tour of the West Indies in July. Playing only his second match, Jaiswal smoked an unbeaten 84 off 51 balls as India chased down the target of 179 runs in 17 overs.

In IPL 2023, Jaiswal scored 625 runs in 14 innings. It was the most by an uncapped Indian player in an IPL season, bettering Ishan Kishan’s 516 runs in 2020. Jaiswal’s tally is also the most for uncapped batsmen overall, as he pipped Shaun Marsh’s 616 runs in the inaugural edition. During the season, he scored one century and five fifties, including one where he took only 13 balls, the fastest in the history of the IPL.

This article was originally published on: indianexpress

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