India started their ICC Champions Trophy 2017 campaign with huge expectations and with the tag of the ‘defending champions’ comfortably resting on their shoulders. Also known as the mini world cup, Champions Trophy is a highly coveted 50-over tournament in cricket. There was a lot of talk in town when India selected their 15-man squad ahead of the big tournament which is currently being played in the tough English conditions. Many criticized the MSK Prasad-led selection committee who picked the out of form Rohit Sharma (making a comeback after five-month injury layoff) and highly inconsistent Shikhar Dhawan as India’s opening combination for the tournament in the absence of injured KL Rahul.
Many believed this was one area where Team India missed the trick by giving Rohit and Dhawan the responsibility to provide solid and steady starts at the top. The duo had a fantastic run with the bat in the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 where India finished as the winners of the event.
The prestigious event witnessed the birth of the Rohit-Dhawan combination as India’s new opening pair when MS Dhoni’s masterstroke to promote the Mumbai lad to bat up the order with the fiery Gabbar (Shikhar Dhawan) worked instantly. During the four-year span, the pair went on to become the third-most prolific ODI opening combination in the history of Indian cricket.
Battling constant opening woes, the move to send Rohit up the order with Shikhar paid rich dividends and worked wonders in favour of the men in blue. In ICC CT 2013, they added the most runs as a pair in the tournament – 382 runs at 76.40 which includes two centuries and two 50-plus stands. Their partnership not only played a crucial part in helping India to lift the coveted trophy but also solved the long-time opening riddle with which India battled continuously.
The duo of Rohit and Dhawan not only hunted with sheer determination but also repaid the faith of the selectors and the Indian skipper who showered immense praise on them match after match.
Cut to 2017, when Shikhar and Rohit knitted another century stand against Pakistan at Edgbaston, it seemed like somebody has switched on the highlight package of the Champions Trophy 2013. They performed in the auto-mode right from the word go and went about the business in completely professional manner. The fantastic duo didn’t stop there and went on with their sublime form in the next match versus Sri Lanka where they knitted 138-run stand (second successive hundred partnership).
Barring an off-day against South Africa where the duo failed to form a big partnership, Rohit and Dhawan once again came to the party against Bangladesh with an 87-run stand in the second semi-final at Edgbaston. So far in the tournament, the right and left-hand combination have conjured up 384 runs in four matches at a strike rate of close to 90. These are some serious stats, to say the least.
Presently, Shikhar Dhawan is leading the batting charts as the highest run-getter of the tournament with 317 runs under his belt in 4 matches at an impressive average of 79.25 and a strike rate of close to 103. Whereas, his partner in crime (Rohit) is second in the list with 304 runs in the same number of matches and with a mind-boggling average of 101.33.
If Pakistan want to have an outside chance of creating a huge upset at The Oval on Sunday, they must find a way to stop this India’s opening rollercoaster.