Indian opener Rohit Sharma has broken almost all records since moving up to the top of the order ahead of the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy. He boasts of the highest average as an ODI opener with 58.11, almost ten points above Hashim Amla in second place.
The Hitman has scored 3 double centuries in ODIs as well and although he hasn't yet established himself in the Test team, he seems to be coming to terms with the longest format of the game gradually. After forming a formidable opening partnership with Shikhar Dhawan for many years, a drop in the form of the southpaw has opened up opportunities for the likes of KL Rahul.
Replacing Rohit Sharma will be incredibly difficult
Only 3 Indian Batsman get Man of the Match award in all 4 SENA countries in ODI Cricket:— 𝐑𝐨𝐡𝐢𝐭 𝐒𝐡𝐚𝐫𝐦𝐚™ (@Ro45FC_) June 29, 2020
✅ Kapil Dev
✅ Sachin Tendulkar
✅ Rohit Sharma @ImRo45 has total 9 MoM Award in S.E.N.A. Countries behind Sachin & Sourav.
5 - ENG
2 - AUS
1 - SA / NZ
G.O.A.T. 🐐#RohitSharma pic.twitter.com/Tm3mzdd1Ya
However, it is time for the Indian cricket team to start looking for adequate replacements for the Mumbai Indians captain, who offers a lot to any team he is part of as a leader as well.
While replacing him won't be easy, we take a look at 3 young Indian batsmen who could take up the opener's role for the Indian team, and have similar success to that of Rohit Sharma.
#1 Prithvi Shaw
The young Mumbai batsman seems to be a combination of Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag visually, but reports of a poor attitude have tarnished his reputation already. Prithvi Shaw made his Test debut in 2018 and scored a fluent century, sparking hope that he could be the answer to India's opening woes in Tests.
However, an injury that ruled him out of the tour to Australia and a doping ban meant that he had to wait till February 2020 to feature again in Tests. He struggled in the pacer-friendly conditions in New Zealand, but Shaw is definitely here to stay.
The 20-year-old has played only 3 Tests and 3 ODIs so far, but he should be given an extended run at the earliest, owing to his strokeplay and leadership skills (he led India to the 2018 U-19 World Cup trophy). We could see Prithvi Shaw take over from Rohit Sharma as the main man for India at the opening slot in the near future.
#2 Shubman Gill
Shubman Gill finished as the leading run-scorer in the 2018 U-19 World Cup and although his ideal position might be at #3 or #4, we have seen him open for the Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League (IPL). The 20-year-old seems to have a calm head on his shoulders and all the shots in the book, two qualities that make Rohit Sharma the limited-overs great he is.
Gill has made the Test squad on occasions, but is yet to don the whites for India. In the 2 ODIs he has been a part of, he didn't get an opportunity to showcase his wares on the international stage.
Shubman Gill has already been touted as the man to take over from KKR captain Dinesh Karthik and we could see leadership elevate his game ever further, just like it did when he captained India C in the Deodhar Trophy. If he is given opportunities at the top of the order, we could see him emulate Rohit Sharma.
#3 Rishabh Pant
Perhaps the most left-field choice on this list, Rishabh Pant has been at the centre of unlimited criticism during his international career so far. The 22-year-old has shown a propensity for throwing his wicket away carelessly, an issue that plagued a young Rohit Sharma as well.
Just like Virender Sehwag and Sanath Jayasuriya before him, a move to the top of the order could bring the best out of the Delhi batsman. We have seen him bat at #4 for the Delhi Capitals in the IPL, as well as a brief stint at the same position for the national team. But Pant might have to move higher to truly realise his massive potential.
Importantly, his batting might open up doors that his wicket-keeping doesn't have the keys to. Pant is undoubtedly a quality player, and Indian captain Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri could roll the dice and give him a chance to make an opening slot alongside (or after) Rohit Sharma his own.