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3 batters who can open for Team India in case Rohit Sharma is ruled out of rescheduled Test against England 

Team India opener Rohit Sharma batting during The Oval Test last year. Pic: Getty Images
Team India opener Rohit Sharma batting during The Oval Test last year. Pic: Getty Images

Team India’s preparations for the rescheduled Test against England suffered a huge setback as captain Rohit Sharma is in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19.

The development puts his participation for the Test match, which begins at Edgbaston on July 1, in serious doubt. Rohit scored 25 in the first innings of the warm-up game against Leicestershire, but did not bat in the second.

An official BCCI release said:

"Team India captain Mr Rohit Sharma has tested positive for COVID-19 following a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) conducted on Saturday. He is currently in isolation at the team hotel and is under the care of the BCCI Medical Team. An RT-PCR test will be conducted on Sunday to ascertain his CT value."

Team India are already missing the services of KL Rahul for the rescheduled Test as he is battling a groin injury. If Rohit is also unavailable, it would be a huge blow for the visitors as he was the leading run-getter for the team (368 runs) in the four Tests played in England last year.

Here are three opening options for Team India in case Rohit is unavailable for the Edgbaston Test.


#1 Hanuma Vihari

Hanuma Vihari during the Johannesburg Test earlier this year. Pic: Getty Images
Hanuma Vihari during the Johannesburg Test earlier this year. Pic: Getty Images

In his short Test career, Hanuma Vihari has already proved to be Team India’s crisis man on a few occasions. He played a legendary knock in Sydney during India’s tour of Australia in 2020-21. Coming in at No. 6, he braved a hamstring injury and stayed put for 237 minutes for his 23* as India pulled off a miraculous draw.

There were glimpses of his fighting ability in the Johannesburg Test as well earlier this year. Batting with the tail, he scored a defiant 40 not out off 84 balls in the second innings to give the visitors a fighting chance in the Test. India eventually went down by seven wickets, but Vihari won some appreciation for his resilience with the willow.

☕️ 𝐒𝐓𝐔𝐌𝐏𝐒@BCCI reach the close on day two 364/9, leading by 366. Jadeja is unbeaten on 56. Kohli top scored with 67 earlier on. 🇮🇳The Foxes take 8⃣ wickets in the day's play.🦊 #IndiaTourMatch | #LEIvIND | #TeamIndia https://t.co/KishMr8Dlf

The 28-year-old has opened the batting in one Test match, during the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne in December 2018. He did not score much, but did a decent job by hanging around to take some sheen off the new ball and make life a little easier for Team India's middle-order batters.

Vihari scored 8 off 66 in the first innings and 13 off 45 in the second. With some experience behind him now, he might not be a bad choice to open the batting with Shubman Gill at Edgbaston.


#2 Cheteshwar Pujara

Cheteshwar Pujara has opened the batting on a few occasions for India. Pic: Getty Images
Cheteshwar Pujara has opened the batting on a few occasions for India. Pic: Getty Images

If Rohit is ruled out, Cheteshwar Pujara should come into the playing XI. Not just that, he could even open the innings. Batting at No.3, he often comes in early after the fall of a quick wicket. So, in effect, he ends up playing the role of an opener a lot of times. He even possesses the technique to deal with the moving ball, although his form of late in Test cricket has been scratchy.

The 34-year-old, however, would be confident after a stellar county stint with Sussex during which he amassed 720 runs in five matches at a stupendous average of 120. Pujara scored four hundreds, two of them being double centuries. Team India might thus be tempted to push him to open the innings in case their skipper Rohit is unavailable.

The Saurashtra batter is no stranger to opening the innings in Test cricket. He has opened the batting in five Tests and has scored 395 runs. Pujara even has a century to his name while opening the batting, an unbeaten 145, which came against Sri Lanka in Colombo in September 2015.

Opening in England will be a challenge at a different level. Given his vast experience, though, Pujara is someone Team India can bank on.


#3 Rishabh Pant

Rishabh Pant batting during the Test series in South Africa. Pic: Getty Images
Rishabh Pant batting during the Test series in South Africa. Pic: Getty Images

If India want to try something out of the box, they could send in maverick keeper-batter Rishabh Pant to open the batting with Gill at Edgbaston. Pant has been having a torrid time with the bat in recent times, but he must have gained some confidence following his 87-ball 76 in the warm-up game in Leicester. He struck 14 fours and one six in his fluent knock.

It is also pertinent to note that even while Pant has struggled in white-ball formats, he has done well in Test cricket. The left-hander scored a fabulous hundred against South Africa in the Cape Town Test, albeit in a losing cause. He was also the man of the series to register scores of 96, 39 and 50 in the two-match home series against Sri Lanka.

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Pant can play a Virender Sehwag-type knock at the top of the order. Of course, it is a high-risk approach, but if the move comes off, it could put Team India in a position to dominate the Test.

The left-hander may lack the technique to deal with the moving ball in England, but he possesses the temperament and the confidence to pull it off.


Also Read: Analyzing Team India's performances in Tests in Birmingham

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Edited by Samya Majumdar
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