Australia vs India 2018/19: Why Kohli should drop both Vijay and Rahul, and consider Vihari and Mayank as openers for the Boxing Day Test
Virat Kohli and co. must get their act together for the third Test against Australia. The Boxing Day Test assumes enormous significance for both teams, but especially so for the touring side, as another slip up here could bring curtains on the rarest of rare chances to win a series down under.
The first thing that Team India must get right is its team selection. And the biggest problem in the team lies at the very top. India’s two openers in the first two Tests have performed abysmally. Rahul and Vijay have scored 48 and 49 runs in the four innings they have played, so far.
Their cheap dismissals have put enormous pressure on India’s middle order. The opening woes along with the reality of a longish tail has meant that the bulk of India’s batting has to be done by the middle order.
Though the middle order has done reasonably well in the series, the overall batting performance has suffered due to the frail opening pair and a tail that cannot wag.
According to many experts, Rahul is certain to be excluded and Vijay could retain his place in the team thanks to the fight he showed in the second innings at Perth. But the fact of the matter is he managed a total of just 20 runs in the second Test, and got out to a loose shot against Nathan Lyon.
So, there is no reason why either of the two openers should be persisted with for the third Test, after failures in four successive innings. Mayank Agarwal is the reserve opener and he should be a shoe in to open the innings at Melbourne. As for his partner, India should consider giving that opportunity to Hanuma Vihari.
Though Vihari is a middle-order batsman, he has a solid technique, suitable against both pace and spin. He has a sound head on his shoulders, as was amply demonstrated in the Perth Test. Former Indian cricketer and analyst Sanjay Manjrekar too has supported the idea of Vihari as a possible solution to India’s opening woes.
If either of Vijay and Rahul gets an opportunity to partner Mayank, there is every chance of Vihari missing out from the playing Xi all-together, as Hardik Pandya seems certain to take up the all-rounder’s slot in the team. By having both Pandya and Vihari in the playing XI, the Indian team gets two extra bowling options as well.
All things considered, Kohli and co. must give a serious consideration to opening with Vihari and Mayank at Melbourne.