IPL 2021: Who can replace Devdutt Padikkal as RCB's opener?
After RCB revealed that Padikkal is COVID-19 positive, the side will need someone to open alongside Kohli on April 9.
Royal Challengers Bangalore have suffered a huge blow right before the start of their IPL 2021 campaign as Devdutt Padikkal - their last season's leading run-scorer - is now certain to miss their first match against Mumbai Indians on April 9.
According to the team's official statement, Padikkal tested positive for COVID-19 on March 22 and is currently quarantined at his residence in Bangalore.
Once his RT-PCR tests are negative, he will join RCB's bio-bubble.
Since this recent development rules him out of RCB's opening fixture and quite possibly a few more, the team will need someone to step up and take the opening role alongside captain Virat Kohli.
Although it won't be easy to find someone who can replicate Padikkal unique skills, the franchise does have some quality players who can take his spot for the time being at the top of the order.
#1 Washington Sundar
The all-rounder from Tamil Nadu has started to build a reputation as an economical bowler capable of taking big wickets.
While this has certainly solidified his position in RCB, the 21-year-old is also known for his elegant strokeplay as a batsman.
His superb performances during India's recent Test series against Australia and England are a testament to Sundar's talent with the bat.
Moreover, it is well known that Sundar is a top-order batsman for Tamil Nadu and that he used to be an opener in his early days.
In fact, he was a top-order batsman for the Indian team during the U-19 Cricket World Cup as well.
Therefore, placing him in the opening slot with Kohli might just work in favour of RCB.
Even Aakash Chopra endorsed this potential combination.
#2 Mohammed Azharuddeen
Mohammed Azharuddeen is undoubtedly one of the best openers in the Indian domestic circuit at the moment.
During the recently-concluded Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, the wicket-keeper batsman from Kerela scored 214 runs in five matches.
His epic 137* from 54 balls against Mumbai proves that Azharuddeen is currently in excellent form and can easily take Padikkal's place.
And remember, given that Azhar is a wicket-keeper as well, RCB could well relieve de Villiers from keeping duties and get him to focus entirely on batting instead.
#3 Finn Allen
Roped in as the replacement to Josh Phillippe, Finn Allen had a magnificent run during the Super Smash 2020-21, where his 512 runs at a strike rate of 193.93 helped Wellington Firebirds win the title.
The 21-year-old's ability to strike big was on full display as he pulled off 25 sixes during the tournament.
Even during New Zealand's 3rd T20I against Bangladesh on April 1, Allen opened the Kiwi innings and showed his sheer talent with a stunning 29-ball 71.
His contributions as an opener could well prove to be the game-changer for RCB in IPL 2021
#4 Rajat Patidar
Rajat Patidar is yet another of RCB's domestic investments that can save them from the Padikkal-COVID situation.
This top-order batsman has a great domestic record across all formats, especially in the Indian T20 domestic circuit, where he has a strike rate of more than 140.
Whether it was his 102 against Andhra in a Vijay Hazare Trophy match or a career-best 51-ball 96 against Goa during this year's Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, Patidar is currently in excellent form in the limited-overs formats.
His recent 54 off 35 balls inning during RCB's practice match further bolsters his candidature to replace Padikkal.
Sanjar Bangar was particularly impressed with that knock - "The beauty of his batting is that he plays proper cricketing shots."