India named their playing XI for the third Test against Australia on Tuesday. As expected, the Indian team management took a huge call on their out-of-form openers, dropping both KL Rahul and Murali Vijay.
Time had already run-out for Rahul, who had scored only 48 runs in four innings this series, including a highest of 44 in the second innings at the Adelaide Oval. In this year’s overseas cycle alone, his average had dropped down to 20.94 in nine Tests with only one fifty-plus score.
Vijay had done no better – scoring just 49 runs in four innings this series, including a highest of 20 in the second innings at the Perth stadium. Overall in 2019, he only averages 18.80 in eight Tests, with one hundred against Afghanistan. In this year’s overseas cycle, his average drops down to 12.64 in seven Tests.
And with another overseas Test series on the line, India did not hesitate in dropping Rahul and Vijay. However, the team-management surprised everyone by naming just one specialist opener in the playing XI in the form of uncapped Mayank Agarwal. The right-hander, who has scored heavily in domestic cricket and for India A in the last one year, replaced injured teenager Prithvi Shaw for the last two Tests.
India has also recalled Rohit Sharma who had missed the last Test due to an injury. Rohit’s inclusion made many speculate that the limited-overs opener will finally be tried at the top of the order in Tests too. However, the chief selector MSK Prasad’s latest statement suggests otherwise.
Prasad indirectly names India’s opening pair for the Boxing Day Test
Prasad has hinted that Hanuma Vihari is likely to be promoted to open the innings alongside Agarwal. Praising Vihari’s technique, Prasad revealed why Parthiv Patel was not picked in the team despite being an opener.
“We have called in Mayank Agarwal and he is in good form after that India A series, so naturally he gets into the side. And the way Vihari batted, it convinced everybody that he has got that sound technique to play,” said Prasad.
“Going by current form, we all know that the current openers are not really living up to the expected things. That is the reason why… It’s really unfortunate. I can definitely say that it’s really unfortunate but going not only by form but we also look at the combinations – what Vihari can offer, what Parthiv Patel may not offer. All those things are taken into consideration while picking the XI,” he added.
The former wicketkeeper further cited Cheteshwar Pujara’s example to justify the team management’s decision to not include two specialist openers for the third Test.
“It’s fine. Technically we feel that he is well equipped, there were times where Pujara also opened when the team required. The team demands it and definitely, I hope he will come out successful. Definitely, it is not a long-term solution, I can tell you that,” he concluded.