Express News Service
BENGALURU: India suffered a big setback two days ahead of their first Test against hosts England as Mayank Agarwal was ruled out of the match after being hit on the helmet while batting during a net session on Monday.
Shubman Gill had already been ruled out of the entire five-match series last month, leaving Virat Kohli and Co in a tight spot as far as the opening slots are concerned.
The team does have the untested Abhimanyu Easwaran, who was drafted into the squad after being in the reserves earlier, as an option, but it may be risky to throw him in against a potent England attack in helpful conditions.
Given the resources they have, KL Rahul seems to be the best possible option for India to open the batting alongside Rohit Sharma.
The Karnataka batsman, however, has been below par, by his standards, of late.
He has not scored a single half-century in his last 12 Test innings and has been dismissed for singledigit scores in seven innings during that period. His last hundred came against England at the Oval in 2018.
If the team management wants, they can also look at other options like Cheteshwar Pujara. Former India great Sunil Gavaskar, however, believes Rahul should open the bat, especially after his hundred in the three-day warm-up game last month.
“…..With a hundred under his belt, Rahul should have a lot of confidence so he is the person I would look at opening the batting, and not having Pujara go up the order. Also, don’t forget, the last Test match Rahul played in England at the Oval, he got a hundred, so with that in mind, it might be good to look at Rahul as an opener…” Gavaskar said in a media interaction.
The think tank is also aware of the importance of an opener in England so much so that Prithvi Shaw has been asked to join the squad in England.
The opening pair, as always, has a huge task at hand against the quality pacers of England, including James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
“It is very important because openers lay the foundation. Openers are the ones who often — I am not talking about Virender Sehwag, but generally other openers — who pave the sort of broken road and make it into a highway for the Ferraris and Lamborghinis to come in and to drive,” said Gavaskar.
The former India captain also feels that Kohli and Pujara will look to score big especially as they haven’t slammed a century for quite some time. Kohli last scored a century in November 2019 while Pujara in January the same year.
“Both are run-hungry batsmen and want to get big hundreds. Once they are able to reach the three-figure mark, they will make up for the fact that they have not got it for some time. But, I do not think that is going to play on their minds,” said Gavaskar.
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