Repeated failures of Murali Vijay and KL Rahul at the top of the batting order have hurt India way too often now. It’s time to seriously look at other options
Day 3 had set the direction of the second Test Match between India and Australia – towards a series-leveling victory for the home team. Day 4 has just about cast it in stone. Continuing from their overnight score of 132 for 4, Australia were successful in denying India any breakthrough till lunch. Usman Khwaja (72 of 213 balls, 5×4) and Tim Paine (37 of 116 balls, 4×4) were at ease on the pitch and posted 72 runs for the fifth wicket.
Post-lunch, Mohammed Shami managed to blaze through the lower order with four wickets off just five overs, ending with his best ever figures of 6 for 56. But to India’s chagrin, the tail wagged a bit again, as Starc and Hazlewood put together 36 invaluable runs for the 10th wicket taking Australia’s 4th innings total to 243 all out and the lead to 286.
The odds are definitely stacked against the team batting 4th in such circumstances. Since 2014, only 6 teams have successfully chased more than 200 in 124 instances. But the abject surrender of the Indian batting team was distressing if not devastating. The first two wickets of K L Rahul (0 of 4 balls) and Cheteshwar Pujara (4 of 11 balls, 1×4) put India in a disadvantageous position at the outset. Virat Kohli (17 of 40 balls, 2×4) and Murali Vijay (20 of 67 balls) provided some resistance but were also sent back early. Rahane played with aggressive intent but soon paid for it when he was caught by Head at point off the bowling of Hazlewood for 30 (47 balls, 2×4, 1×6).
At close, India were stuttering at 112/5 with Hanuma Vihari (24 of 58 balls, 4×4) and Rishabh Pant (9 of 19 balls) at the crease – 175 runs short of victory and five wickets away from defeat.
The horse has bolted in Perth, but can we still lock the barn door for the rest of the series? DKODING recommends a serious relook at the opening pair of KL Rahul and Murali Vijay. So far, they have hardly made any significant positive difference to the team’s fortunes, leaving India overwhelmingly reliant on Kohli, Pujara and Rahane. Rahul’s lack of footwork, and propensity to get his timber disturbed too often is getting on the nerves of cricket fans. So far in two tests, his scores read 2, 44, 2 and 0. He has made only 377 runs in 9 tests away from home this year.
This includes a score of 149 vs England at the oval, his only score worth taking note. Murali Vijay hasn’t been significantly better either. He scores in the four innings in Australia read 11, 18, 0 and 20.
If the openers cannot see off the new ball and give India a foundation to build on, their role in the team is pretty much redundant. In ongoing discussions, experts are already speculating that with Prithvi Shaw on the road to recovery and having trained with the Indian team at Perth, chances are that the Boxing Day test will see him replace one of the openers. With age against him, and Rahul apparently being a favourite of the captain, chances are that the axe will fall on Vijay. But as far as we are concerned, India might as well leave out both and look for options to fill these key vacancies.
Bring Pant to open with Shaw perhaps and get Jadeja back to play down the order.
Parthiv can be tried as opener too since he is part of the squad to Australia. There is no harm in upsetting the existing equations, especially when they are failing so miserably. Meanwhile, there is positive news coming in as we publish this – Hardik Pandya, who was recovering from a back injury, could join the Indian team soon for the last two tests.