As India gear up to take on West Indies in the first Test of the two-match series, skipper Virat Kohli has urged openers KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal to make the most of the opportunity. With Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan not in the scheme of things at the moment and young Prithvi Shaw sidelined with a suspension, Agarwal and Rahul have a golden opportunity to seal their spots in the playing eleven.
Agarwal made his Test debut during the historic tour of Australia last year and made an instant impression with a feisty fifty. However, Rahul had a terrible Test record last year. Except the 149-run knock in the inconsequential Oval Test against England, Rahul had managed to score just one fifty-plus in 2018 which came against Afghanistan at home.
Rahul had 12 single-digit scores in his last 24 Test innings. In fact, he has scored 17 scores of less than 20 in his last 24 innings. He has managed to score just 484 runs since November 2017 at an average of 21.59. What makes things further worse for Rahul is the amount of balls he has faced. On an average, he has faced just 35 balls in an innings. It is the lowest number of balls per innings amongst all Indian batsmen.
But with Shaw out, Rahul has a good opportunity to impress the team-management and Virat Kohli has asked him to do so. Virat Kohli also made it clear that the team is fully backing the two by not picking any backup opener in the squad.
“In the opening combination, we have selected only two openers, so the idea is to give them four innings, just let them go out there and express themselves. Mayank has done really well, KL (Rahul) has performed well in the past, he is looking forward to making things count in Test cricket again,” Kohli said on the eve of the match.
“At the end of the day, as much as individuals want to perform, it is about what you can do as a team. If you look at the Melbourne Test, how (Hanuma) Vihari and Mayank opened and though Vihari scored just 18 or 20 runs, but he batted for 85 balls, tells you it is all about team, and he handled the situation so well that Pujara and myself could go out there and play the way we did and Pujara then went to get that century for us.
“I think this contributions are not recognised or spoken about so much but as a team we all have markers set as to what is expected from certain batting positions. It is up to them to capitalise and express themselves in these four innings,” he added.
Hanuma Vihari or Rohit Sharma?:
India face a dilemma in picking one between Rohit Sharma and Hanuma Vihari. It is highly unlikely that India would play both the batsmen. When asked about it, Virat Kohli didn’t give a clear cut answer but said it will depend on the combination the team prefers.
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“Look it again depends on the type of combination that we are going with. Vihari has done really well since the time he has come into the team in two difficult tours. Rohit also did well in Melbourne, so it all depends on what combination we want to go with,” he said.
“Vihari also gives you few overs with the ball and he is a pretty solid player. Rohit’s quality we have been seeing for years. So it is about who provides the best balance in terms in the XI we choose,” he added.