Dhawan-Rohit's perfect duet

Dhawan-Rohit's perfect duet

The two openers have played a crucial role in India's march

Dhawan-Rohit's perfect duet

Two men who played a massive part in India's undefeated run to Champions Trophy glory four years ago in England are composing another brilliant duet as the team stands just two wins away from a record third title.

Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, who posted two century partnerships and two half-century stands worthy 382 runs in five matches in 2013, have already amassed 297 runs (including two century stands) as a pair to lay a strong foundation for the middle-order to express themselves.

Part of their journey started in January 2013 when then skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni asked Rohit to open the innings during an ODI series against England at home, bearing in the mind the Champions Trophy that was a few months away. Struggling to express himself in a power-packed middle-order, Rohit was given the licence to thrill without having to worry about failure.

The gamble, like many of Dhoni’s, was a success as Rohit went on to hammer 83. Six months later at the Champions Trophy, he was opening the innings for the first time with Dhawan, the left-hander returning to the ODI side after some mixed results in the previous five matches he had played.

Both set that tournament afire and have gone on to set this one ablaze as well despite both returning to the national side for different reasons. While Rohit is back following a thigh injury, Dhawan was dropped last year owing to poor form and is in the squad largely because first-choice opener K L Rahul failed to recover from a shoulder surgery. Rohit and Dhawan, however, have resumed their journey like it had never stopped.

Like any successful alliance that relies on good understanding, both Rohit and Dhawan have taken care of each other very well in this event as well. Both know when to attack and when to defend and  their calling for quick ones and twos has been brilliant as well.

Another factor that makes the Rohit-Dhawan combo click is their completely opposite styles of batting that blend in harmoniously. Rohit, an easy on the eye right-hander, makes batting look ridiculously simple. Blessed with oodles of talent, the Mumbaikar has all the shots in the book with his cuts, pulls and drives a treat to watch when in full flow. The left-handed Dhawan is unorthodox. The Delhiite isn't one of the prettiest batsmen around but can be brutal. Strong square off the wicket, Dhawan sometimes appears to struggle against short ball but finds a way to wriggle himself out.

Their different styles and ability to switch gears without warning makes life difficult for the bowlers, who have to keep altering their lines and lengths.  

Rohit, whose career has taken a different dimension after being elevated as an opener, said the strong bond between him and Dhawan has had a great effect on their success. “We are scoring runs together and partnership is happening. We understand each other very well. We keep stealing a lot of singles. Strike rotation is very important. Left-right combination causes a lot of problems for the bowlers. Line or length needs to be changed. We always keep talking about strike rotation.”

Dhawan echoed the same thoughts. “It's been three-four years now. Once you know the person on and off the field then you get that comfort factor and we both know each other's games. We create a balance for each other and it's not that we have to say it. We understand automatically. We have been opening for a long time and that stability creates consistency which is a good thing for our team.”

Rohit and Dhawan reached a landmark 10th century stand against Sri Lanka in their 56th innings together but are yet to be spoken in the same breath as the famous Sachin Tendulkar-Sourav Ganguly or Tendulkar-Virender Sehwag combinations. With an average of 49.05 in 57 innings now, they can aspire to become one.