Rating Murali Vijay's opening partners in the New Zealand series
The only thing that has been constant about the Indian Test top order for the last few months has been Murali Vijay. The Chennai-born right-hander has had decent success in whites but his form is on the dip now. He did not do too well in the West Indies and in the last two matches against New Zealand including the one at Indore he has struggled with the bat. The selectors have, however, kept their faith on the 32-year-old because at the other end they have struggled to find the right opener.
Now, Shikhar Dhawan had been Vijay’s partner for some time, but his lackluster show with the willow saw him getting dropped from the side. KL Rahul was asked to fill up the shoes of Dhawan, and he impressed with three hundreds and a fifty from 9 matches. But then in the first Test against New Zealand in Kanpur, he injured his toe while batting. Left-handed opener Gautam Gambhir was called back into the squad to replace Rahul but then again it was Dhawan who was given a game in the second Test at Eden Gardens against the Kiwis.
Dhawan struggled against the seamers and injured his left thumb while playing a Trent Boult delivery. The team management said he wasn’t fit enough to feature in the Indore game and finally it was Gambhir who was given the nod.
Here in this article, we rate all the three openers who have played alongside Murali Vijay in the series.
Shikhar Dhawan- 4
Dhawan started off his international Test career with a bang, slamming a brilliant 187 against Australia on March 14, 2013. The world thought India’s dream of getting a charismatic world class opener was over and he did prove it right, at least in the first few games with scores of 98 and 115 to show for in his series against New Zealand in early 2014.
But then India travelled to England where the batsmen struggled to cope with the conditions and Dhawan was no exception. He could not really find his consistency after the tour and only showed flashes of his brilliance on occasions but the selectors kept backing him. Out of his last eight games he has scored only 1 Test fifty which was against West Indies during India’s visit to the Caribbean two months back. His poor showing saw him getting dropped for the last two Test matches in the tour where Rahul was roped in as his replacement.
Rahul, with a string of impressive performance held onto the spot till the first Test against New Zealand but then he hurt his toe. Dhawan was again given a chance to grab the opportunity, but at Eden Gardens Dhawan looked ungainly dealing with pacers like Boult and Matt Henry. His 17-run inning was a torture for the left-hander where he hurt his left hand on a number of occasions. One such blow cost him his place in the Eden Test where Gambhir replaced him.
KL Rahul- 7.5
One thing noticeable about KL Rahul is that he enjoys getting big hundreds. He already has three tons in his 15 innings of 9 games. But the right-hander can be very mediocre sometimes too, alongside his three centuries he also has 7 scores below 10.
He started off on a dismal note too against Australia in December 2014 where he had scores of 3 and 1 in Melbourne but then got things going with a brilliant 110 in Sydney. Recently he has found a bit of consistency which is notable from the fact that he has not got a single one digit score since his 158 against West Indies in Kingston, in July.
He looked quite steady in his knocks in the first Test against New Zealand in Kanpur but could not convert the starts (32,38) into big ones. And then he injured his foot to sit out of the next two Tests. His performances are however, still enough to convince that he is one of the most talented openers around at the moment and thus he deserves a high rating.
Gautam Gambhir- 6.5
A veteran, Gambhir made his Test debut way back in 2004. It is 2016 and he has featured in 56 Test matches for the country and might just have played his last at Indore. He scored a dazzling fifty in the second innings in the third Test against New Zealand after an impressive 29 in the first but will it be enough for him to keep his place in the side?
KL Rahul has been India’s bet for the last few matches and might just retain his position again when he is fit, thus leaving Gambhir out of the team. At 34, making a comeback might get a little too difficult for the KKR captain. It is sad that even though Gambhir averages more in Tests than limited overs he will be still remembered for his knocks in the World T20 final in 2007 and the World Cup final in 2011.