Rohit Sharma’s unavailability has created a pleasant headache for skipper Virat Kohli ahead of the first Test against New Zealand. The ‘Hitman’ had been in stellar form during the whole of 2019 in all formats of the game, and if he had been fit, India would have opened with him and Mayank Agarwal.
Now, since Sharma has been injured, India will have to find a replacement. And there is more than one candidate vying for the job.
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The problem of plenty
The two prospects are aged just 20, they have both been labelled future talents to watch out for, and they both scored a duck in the first innings of the warmup match against New Zealand.
Shubhman Gill and Prithvi Shaw will fight it out for the second opener’s slot that has been opened up because of the absence of Sharma. Now the question is, which of them should get the nod?
Prithvi Shaw's Test debut - a moment to remember
Shaw had a sensational start to his Test career. The 20-year-old batting sensation scored a century and a fifty in his debut Test series against the West Indies and bagged the ‘Man of the Series’ award.
Skipper Kohli was effusive in his praise for Shaw after the latter's stunning performance on Test debut.
"He looks like someone who can get you off to the kind of start that you require, especially to make the first mark in any series that you play. It's great to have a guy who is so fearless, and he isn't reckless, he's very confident about his game”, said Kohli.
But after his scintillating performance against the Windies, Shaw has not got a chance to turn out for his side in Test cricket. That is mainly of his own doing - he was given an eight-month doping ban last year - but now he is fit and available for selection again.
The Karun Nair case
Karun Nair was dropped from the side after becoming just the second Indian batsman in history to score a triple hundred in Test cricket. When asked about Nair’s exclusion from the side and Ajinkya Rahane taking his place, this is what Kohli had to say:
“One game doesn’t overshadow two years of hard work from another player. You need to understand what ‘Jinks’ (Rahane) has done for the team over the past two years...He averages almost fifty in this format and he is probably the most solid batsman in the Test team. He deserved to walk back into the team whenever he got fit.”
The Indian team was ready to drop a batsman after he had scored a triple hundred in his previous innings, because the man he had replaced (Rahane) had not lost his place in the side due to form, but due to injury. Are there parallels between Rahane's case and Shaw's?
Why Shaw should get the nod ahead of Gill
After bagging the 'Man of the Series' award in his debut Test series, the talented Mumbai batsman was sidelined from the game due to accidentally consuming a banned drug, and not due to poor performance.
The last time that Shaw walked up to the crease in a Test, he was considered to be the answer to all of India's opening woes. Why should an eight-month period on the sidelines change that?
Yes, Gill is extremely talented as well and he has not done anything wrong. But neither has Shaw. And what Shaw has going for him is that he has already proven himself in Test cricket, and hasn't yet disappointed the selectors' faith in him.
Gill will get his chance eventually. But for now, Shaw is the man India should be looking at.