Bangalore: The washout in Visakhapatnam means the Indian team management has just one T20 International fixture against New Zealand in Chennai, to get their combination right before they head to Sri Lanka for the ICC World Twenty20.
Among the few grey areas has been the inability of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, to lay a solid foundation at the top of the innings across all formats, something they did consistently between 2008 to 2010, which mirrored India's rise in the Test rankings as well as success in the One-Day format. Despite that, they remain India's best bet to open the batting in the T20 format. Both of them are certainties to open the batting in Sri Lanka at the World T20, a tournament where India's performance across the last two editions, in 2009 and 2010 has been well below par.
The Indian selectors though, have given a vote of confidence to the Delhi duo, as no back-up opener has been picked in the 15-man squad. Gambhir made two fifties and a century in Sri Lanka during the limited-overs series, while Sehwag has just one fifty to show, since India started their season in July after a rare two-month break. In between, Sehwag also struck a couple of cameos in the Test matches against New Zealand. But, there was nothing to suggest a lack of form, rather it was just that he failed to convert on starts.
Sehwag and Gambhir are India's most successful opening pair by a long way, a record which has spilled into the T20 format as well, irrespective of current form. Individually though, both Gambhir and Sehwag have been in stupendous form in the T20 format for their IPL sides – Kolkata Knight Riders and Delhi Daredevils respectively.
Gambhir was the third highest run-getter in IPL 2012 with 556 runs in 15 matches at an average of 39.71. More importantly, his strike rate of well over 140 is an indication that he got his runs at a pace needed for the T20 game. Sehwag wasn't too far behind as he finished as the fifth highest run-getter, notching up 484 runs in 14 matches at an average of 37.23 and a typically characteristic strike rate of 160, which goes to suggest, their poor run as an opening pair in recent times has just been a coincidence.
A part of India's problems in the 2009 and 2010 World T20 was the lack of a stable opening partnership due to the lack of a stable opening pair. While Gambhir and Sehwag gave the team flying starts in 2007, Sehwag's injury troubles meant he missed out on the subsequent editions. That forced the think-tank to experiment with Rohit Sharma as a makeshift opener, which proved to be a failure as the team was bounced out in the super-eight stage, with very little contribution from the opening pair.
In 2010 it was Murali Vijay who was elevated to the opening slot on the back of some stellar performances for Chennai Super Kings in the IPL. Once again, the absence of a stable pair proved to be India's undoing as they were knocked out in the super-eights stage.
Among the current list of players who are expected to open in the T20 format for their respective countries, Gambhir and Sehwag are second best in terms of runs and have the highest average for a pair who've featured in more than 10 matches together. They have put together 506 runs in 14 innings at an average of 36.14, with the best being 136 against England in 2007, a partnership, that would have been the talking point if it was not overshadowed by Yuvraj Singh's six sixes in an over off Stuart Broad. Only David Warner and Shane Watson have more runs as an opening pair, with 743 runs in 24 innings at an average of 30.96.
With a solid record on their side, and a chance to provide the stability at the top that the team needs so badly, Gambhir and Sehwag will have their work cut out for them in Sri Lanka.