Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir's simultaneous ouster could have spelled doom for India's ODI fortunes. The opening pair's dominance across all three formats, especially limited-overs cricket, had intimidated attacks world over. But with both hitting a long, lean patch, the selectors had no choice but to drop the famed duo, bring in Shikhar Dhawan and turn Rohit Sharma into an opener. The move, as it is turning out to be, has paid off - so far.
It was a risk putting Dhawan in the line of fire against Australia in Test cricket, but he bludgeoned the Aussies and has never looked back since. Dhawan overcame an injury scare to put Sunrisers Hyderabad's debut IPL campaign back on track, earning himself a recall to the ODI squad for the Champions Trophy. He took his good form to England and hit back-to-back hundreds in India's victorious campaign, while opening the batting with Sharma and winning the Golden Bat.
Sharma's career, it seems, got a new lease of life when Ricky Ponting relinquished the Mumbai Indians' captaincy in IPL 6. The franchise asked Sharma to lead, and he turned it on both with bat and his leadership to take Mumbai to their maiden IPL trophy. His good form first got him onto the Champions Trophy bus and then earned him the nod to open with Dhawan, ahead of Murali Vijay. The duo's good run at the top helped India win the Champions Trophy undefeated - having egistered five wins in a row.
And when you don't miss players of the calibre of Sehwag and Gambhir, there has to be something good about their replacements. Here are a few pointers that suggest India might have found their openers for the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. But having said, the duo will have to prove the same in different conditions overseas on a regular basis.
* Dhawan and Rohit have shared three century stands - the most by any pair in ODIs this year.
* Dhawan and Rohit have completed 500 runs in partnership-aggregate for the opening wicket, totalling 542 in eight innings, including three stands of 100-plus and two fifty-plus, at an average of 67.75. Their average is the highest amongst the Indian opening pairs with 500 runs or more in ODIs.
* Dhawan and Rohit were involved in a stand of 123 - India's highest opening partnership in the West Indies, eclipsing the 116 (unbroken) between Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar vs West Indies on April 27, 1997.
* Dhawan has registered two centuries and three fifties in thirteen innings in ODIs. India have won all five games when Dhawan has posted an innings of fifty or more in ODIs.
(With inputs from PTI)