Hanuma Vihari will open the innings with Mayank Agarwal, suggests chief selector MSK Prasad
After losing the second Test to Australia by 146 runs at Perth, India have made three changes to their playing XI for the Boxing Day Test. Mayank Agarwal, who had a terrific domestic season will make his debut as an opener. India's openers for the first two Tests, Murali Vijay and KL Rahul were dropped from the side. With Rohit Sharma also making a comeback to the XI, the toss-up for the second opener was clearly between Vihari and Rohit.
Clearing the air about the opening situation, chief selector MSK Prasad said, "we have called in Mayank Agarwal and he is in good form after that India A series, so naturally he gets into the side. And the way Vihari batted, it convinced everybody that he has got that sound technique to play.".
He spoke at length about all the opening options that India have at their disposal. “Going by current form, we all know that the current openers are not really living up to the expected things. That is the reason why… It’s really unfortunate. I can definitely say that it’s really unfortunate but going not only by form but we also look at the combinations – what Vihari can offer, what Parthiv Patel may not offer. All those things are taken into consideration while picking the XI,” he said.
He also cited the example of Cheteswara Pujara playing as an opener before and felt that Vihari as an opener is just a temporary option.“Technically we feel that he is well equipped, there were times where Pujara also opened when the team required. The team demands it and definitely, I hope he will come out successful. Definitely, it is not a long-term solution, I can tell you that.”
In the second Test at Perth India went into the game without a specialist spinner. On the other hand, Australia's Nathan Lyon picked up eight wickets and helped Australia level the series with a Man-of-the-Match performance. Since Ravichandran Ashwin was unfit everyone expected Ravindra Jadeja to feature in the second Test.
After the second loss in the second match, Indian Head coach Ravi Shastri said that Jadeja was not fit as he was just 70-80 per cent fit and the all-rounder had taken injections before flying for the Australia tour and one after landing there. Contradicting those statements Prasad told the reporters that "On the eve of any selection meeting, the selection committee is given a fitness report of all the players. In that report, Jadeja was absolutely fit. So we picked him. After we picked him, he went and played Ranji Trophy also, he bowled 60 overs [64, against Railways]. So there is no question of him being unfit at the time of selection."
He also spoke about why MS Dhoni was rested for the T20Is against West Indies and Australia. "With regard to MS even while resting also we categorically told that he's going to be rested for six matches so that we can give more time to Dinesh Karthik and Rishabh Pant. That is the very reason... and now they played quite a few matches so we thought that we can bring back MS into the squad."
Speaking about India plans for the World Cup, he said "coming closer to the World Cup we are only left with 13 ODIs so it's more or less a core team. We have zeroed it down to 20 members and only those 20 members will be figuring from now on."
"With regard to Rishabh, the intensity of the series that we are playing right now after this series we want to keep him fresh and give him a break. He will have a very good game time of five ODIs against visiting England Lions."
When questioned about Pant's chances of playing in the 2019 World Cup, the chief selector concluded by saying "Yes, of course. He is definitely a part of the scheme of things."