Australia vs India 2018-19, 1st Test: With only four bowlers in the side, India must prefer Hanuma Vihari over Rohit Sharma
Now that India has announced its final twelve for the first test against Australia at Adelaide, it is clear that Virat Kohli has decided to abandon his preferred five-bowler strategy. This is the right decision since erring on the side of caution in the first test of a long series is always a wise step.
From the looks of it, Murali Vijay and KL Rahul are going to be the opening pair, and the only choice that the Indian team management has to make is between Rohit Sharma and Hanuma Vihari.
Rohit Sharma is a batting colossus in the limited over formats but has not been able to replicate his form in the longer version of the game, especially in the testing conditions overseas. However, unlike the seam and swing-friendly conditions of countries such as England and New Zealand, Australian pitches will not offer much swing. Pace and bounce are not going to trouble Rohit Sharma that much.
Moreover, his excellent back-foot play and the ability to play horizontal shots will come in handy. And if he can get a decent score in the first test, that will give him a lot of confidence going forward. He is one of the most gifted players and his presence in the test format can do wonders to the fortunes of the Indian team going forward.
On the other hand, the player he is competing against for the number six slot is a handy batsman who has proved himself time and again in the domestic cricket. In the only test he has played so far in England, he has done no harm to his cause. He scored a confident half-century and then pitched in with some handy bowling. He picked up three wickets in that match, including those of Cook and Root.
With India having decided to go with just four front-line bowlers and one spinner, Vihari’s bowling could be invaluable to the Indian team. He can roll his arm over for a few overs to not only give rest to the front-line bowlers but could also bowl in tandem with Ashwin in the later stages of the game when the pitch is expected to assist spin.
Moreover, the fact that Australia too has bolstered its batting line up by bringing in Marcus Harris in place of Mitch Marsh, also means that the four-man Indian bowling will need to work extra hard to take twenty Australian wickets. This is all the more reason, why India should have a fifth bowling option in Vihari.