'I will still go with KL Rahul, because over the last few months and years I think the Indian team management went with KL Rahul as an opening batsman and he has done really well in that position.'
Former batsman VVS Laxman has picked KL Rahul over Shikhar Dhawan to open the batting with Rohit Sharma in the upcoming five-match T20I series against England, starting in Ahmedabad on Friday.
"It will be a tough question, as far as the selection of the second opener is concerned. There's no doubt about that because Rohit Sharma is an automatic choice in white ball cricket. I will still go with KL Rahul, because over the last few months and years I think the Indian team management went with KL Rahul as an opening batsman and he has done really well in that position," Laxman said on Star Sports show Cricket Connected.
With Rishabh Pant expected to take over the gloves against England, Rahul is set to play as the opener.
Rahul opened the innings in both the three-match T20 and ODI series in Australia with Dhawan as Rohit was ruled out with injury.
Both Rahul and Dhawan had a good showing in the IPL last year but Laxman believes the Karnataka right-hander gets his vote keeping an eye on the T20 World Cup, scheduled to be held in India later this year.
"Yes, Shikhar Dhawan had a fantastic IPL, the way he batted top of the order, scoring centuries for Delhi capitals and then he's in tremendous form for Delhi in the Vijay Hazare, where he scored a big 100 in that tournament as well. With KL Rahul as an opening combination you want someone who's second. Keeping in mind the T20 World Cup, you have to identify who your openers are going to be there in the World Cup and back them; don't chop and change. You have someone as experienced as Shikhar Dhawan, who can be the backup opener in case one of these openers Rohit Sharma/ KL Rahul gets injured or lose their form."
Laxman also expressed his delight on Sunrisers Hyderabad pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar's recovery and believes he will play an important role in the upcoming World T20,
"There's a lot of depth in the Indian pace department, we saw this even in the Test match cricket in their tour to Australia. I still feel great and happy that Bhuvneshwar Kumar has regained fitness because he’s such an important bowler, especially in white ball cricket for India, because apart from Jasprit Bumrah, if there’s anyone in that Indian bowling line-up who has got the experience of bowling not only with the new ball but also at the death," he said.
But the former India batsman also urged the team management to take it easy with Bhuvneshwar and not play him in all the five T20Is against England.
"For him to be 100% fit, I think a lot of priority and prominence has to be given to manage the workload and the injury of Bhuvaneshwar Kumar. I hope that he doesn't play all the five matches. I think he can be rested in between probably three matches out of the five matches is what I see or expect Bhuvaneshwar Kumar to play. He is such an important member, we have to look after Bhuvaneshwar Kumar the fast bowler, because he will be playing a very important role, come November, when the World Cup will happen."
Talking about India captain Virat Kohli, Laxman believes he should go out and play his shots and not look to play the anchor role.
"I definitely think it’s a strong fast bowling unit as far as England is concerned because they have got a lot of variations; they’ve got pace in the form of Mark Wood and Archer. Good death bowling options in the form of Jordan; Ben Stokes can be their all-rounder. But their spin department looks a little weak compared to their fast bowling department. But as such, I feel that Virat Kohli is a class batsman, he’s an outstanding batsman and with depth and quality in the Indian batting line-up, I think he should go and express himself.
It’s not necessary for him to play the anchor role, because we know that he’s a stroke player. If he plays with positive intent, if he plays his high percentage shots, not only his strike rate will be high, but his consistency also will be there for everyone to see - he’s a match winner. With Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul opening the innings, and then you have got Shreyas Iyer, Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant, I think they have a lot of depth. So, Virat Kohli should go out and express himself and play with lot of freedom, and that’s when he’s very dangerous."
The Hyderabadi believes this T20 series will give India a good opportunity to test their bench strength as they kick start their preparations for the T20 World Cup.
"It’s a great opportunity for Team India because you are playing five matches in your home condition, followed by IPL and Asia Cup before the T20 World Cup. It’s a great opportunity to test your bench, which is why I feel the squad is very formidable - as far as the Indian squad is concerned."