While Mayank Agarwal is a certainty for India at the top of the order despite not being in the greatest of form on the New Zealand tour so far, India have a choice to make between Prithvi Shaw and Shubman Gill for the second opener's role in the first Test at Wellington.
There is no doubt that both Shaw and Gill are quality players with a huge range of shots. If either of them comes good, the fact that they score at such a brisk pace even in red-ball cricket would put India in the driver's seat within a couple of sessions.
That said, Test matches in New Zealand are not just about stroke-play. They are, perhaps even more so, about batting time. There will be periods where the ball will hoop around corners, and if the bowlers make inroads at the top, a team can be bowled out within a session.
Your opener in New Zealand should be good enough to know where his off stump is because a lot of balls will have to be left alone upfront.
Shaw and Gill, to some extent, are similar in terms of how they approach red-ball cricket. They are flashy players and don’t mind swinging their bat away from their body if the ball is there to be hit.
But while playing red-ball cricket in New Zealand, you need to be very careful while deciding whether the ball is there to be hit or not. If it’s swinging and you are going for a drive, you must be sure you are making contact with the ball at the half-volley.
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Most of the disciplined Test batsmen around the world, like India’s own Cheteshwar Pujara for example, don’t go for the drive at all when the ball is moving. They tend to play inside the line of the ball to see off the threat, before opening up their shoulders against a slightly older cherry.
While you play for an in-dipper, anything which goes away automatically leaves you because your bat is not going outside your eye-line. Your run-scoring opportunities, in that scenario, are the deliveries which are short and wide or on your pads.
While the approach of Shaw and Gill is more or less the same in red-ball cricket, their styles are a little different. Shaw hangs back and relies on horizontal bat shots, which are safer shots to play when the ball is moving. Gill meanwhile plays with a vertical bat. That is not such a bad thing in general, but the judgement of length is key while playing with a vertical bat against a moving ball.
Because of the fact that he doesn’t really score with the horizontal bat a lot, there is a chance that Gill will go searching for runs with the vertical bat, even if the length is not conducive for it. Shaw, on the other hand, has got a fantastic cut and a decent pull, which means he can score runs when the ball is not full.
The Indian captain Virat Kohli has dropped several hints that Shaw will be Agarwal’s opening partner in Wellington. It's probably the right call, but is Shaw disciplined enough to leave the ball when it’s full and moving?
If Shaw is at the crease, the runs will come at a good clip. But his discipline against the full deliveries will determine how long he is at the crease.