Australia vs India 2018-19: Kohli could consider Rohit for the opening slot with Vihari at No. 6
With the unfortunate injury to the young and in-form Prithvi Shaw at the most inopportune moment, Virat Kohli needs to weigh the pros and cons seriously before deciding on his playing XI for the opening Test against Australia at Adelaide.
What Shaw’s injury has done is that it has weakened India’s batting considerably; he is the most in-form opening batsman that India have at the moment. The other two opening batsmen, Murali Vijay and KL Rahul, have both gone through torrid times in their recent international outings.
It must have been heartening for Kohli to see that both Vijay and Rahul showed some signs of coming back to form in the warm up game. However, only Vijay made it truly count, as he went on to score a brilliant century.
Vijay's return to form coupled with his exploits in the county set up after being dropped from the Indian Test side in England, together with his good showing on India’s previous tour to Australia, should make him a certainty at the top of the order in Adelaide.
For the other opening slot, India could be tempted to give Rahul another chance, especially since the Indian think tank of Kohli and Co. rate him very highly. But Rahul has been going through a lean patch for quite some time now, and as Indian batting coach Sanjay Bangar succinctly put it, he has been finding ‘new ways to get himself out’ every time.
It is important to give a chance to a player who is in form, rather than an out of form player struggling to regain his confidence. In that context, Kohli could well put his faith in the ability of the one-day colossus Rohit Sharma.
Rohit has been one of the very best opening batsmen in the limited overs format, to say the least. In fact, his limited overs career got a major boost only when he was asked to open, instead of playing in the middle order.
Who knows, a similar switch in position in the Test format could have a similar impact on his fortunes!
Moreover, the Indian batting has failed on the two previous overseas tours, in South Africa and England, and especially so in the opening Test matches. Kohli should seriously consider strengthening the batting by having six batsmen and four bowlers; he must err on the side of caution.
He could play Hanuma Vihari at the number six position. Vihari will give much-needed solidity to the lower middle order and could also pitch in with some useful overs to give rest to the four frontline bowlers. With the Adelaide pitch being relatively spin-friendly, his bowling too could come in handy at a later stage in the game.
Playing Rohit as opener and Vihari at No. 6 might sound like a gamble, but practically it is the safes option available to Kohli. The question is: does he see things the same way?