Winning both of the first two Tests comfortably? Done.
Skipper scoring a century and both spinners picking up wickets for fun? Done.
Rahul Dravid, the head coach of the Indian men’s cricket team, might have devised an antidote to Murphy's law, which has, so far remain conceited – for everything that could have gone India’s way so far in the four-match Test series against Australia, has gone their way.
The first match in Nagpur was a cakewalk. The second fixture in Delhi was slightly more of a challenge, but not significant enough to prevent a second consecutive victory. The mood around the Indian camp should ideally be jovial, with the fans in convivial spirits.
Yet, beyond the euphoria of the wins, there is pandemonium among the fans.
The performance of opening batter, KL Rahul, has led to the emergence of a rebel coterie, which includes some renowned names in former cricketers Venkatesh Prasad and Dodda Ganesh.
The duo cannot be blamed for their staunch stance, for Rahul has only scored 38 runs in the first two Tests – fewer than Mohammed Shami, who bats at number 10.
Whilst the players were celebrating the triumph at the Arun Jaitley Stadium, a poll by the broadcasters revealed what was already known by then – Alongside Prasad and Ganesh, the majority of the Indian fans were of the belief that Rahul has all but extinguished his chances.
He has played 11 matches in the ICC World Test Championship (WTC) 2021-23 cycle, scoring 636 runs at an underwhelming average of 30.28. To make matters worse, it has been over a year since Rahul last breached the 30-run mark in Test cricket.
Like Rahul, the team management also find themselves between a rock and a hard place, wherein the player’s numbers are not anywhere near promising, but the results have worked out according to plans.
Should they decide to pull the plug ahead of the Indore Test, which commences on 1 March, Dravid and his think tank compatriots will have options aplenty to choose from. In this article, we will analyse India’s potential replacement options:
1. Shubman Gill
Like every other list, we have plenty of candidates here, but only a solitary candidate-numero-uno – Shubman Gill.
He has scored 322 runs in five matches, including a century against Bangladesh not very long ago, and whilst the average of 32.20 is not a significant improvement from Rahul’s 30.28, a couple of factors work out in the youngster’s favour.
Besides having scored his maiden Test ton only a couple of months ago, Gill has been in baleful touch with the bat across all formats. The recently concluded series against New Zealand saw him score an ODI double century, a ton in the same format, and also a century in T20I.
2. Mayank Agarwal
It might come across as a surprising statistic, but amid the Rahul-Gill debate, Mayank Agarwal has a better average in WTC 2021-23 than the pair. He has scored 436 runs in seven matches, including a century against New Zealand.
Barring his Test numbers, what works as a significant boost to his argument is his numbers in the 2022/23 Ranji Trophy season. The 32-year-old was head and shoulders above everyone else from his team, Karnataka, accumulating 990 runs at a staggering average of 82.50.
3. Prithvi Shaw
It is, at the very least, unfortunate that for a player of his calibre, Prithvi Shaw seems to be making headlines for every odd reason under the sun, but cricket. Beyond the off-the-field shenanigans, however, his numbers deserve a second look.
Representing Mumbai, he scored 595 runs in this season’s Ranji Trophy, with his average being 59.50. It now might feel like an eternity since he last played Test cricket, but the 23-year-old has two half-centuries and a century in only five red-ball appearances for India.
4. Sarfaraz Khan
Shaw, for all he has done in domestic cricket, might not be the first in line from the Mumbai team to make it to the Test squad. Whilst he is not an opening batter, any debate regarding any vacancy on the Indian red-ball side should include a mention of Sarfaraz Khan.
That, whether it will be just to throw him at the deep end in a role he is not accustomed to, is a justifiable debate, but it does not take anything away from his exemplary numbers.
He has scored 556 runs in this season’s Ranji Trophy at an average of 92.66, whilst the average last season was 122.75.
5. Ishan Kishan
The last two names share a few similarities – they both breached the 500-run mark in Ranji Trophy 2022/23, represent Mumbai, and are not a part of the squad currently. Ishan Kishan is, although he has played only two Ranji Trophy matches over the last couple of seasons.
A first-class average of 38.75, however, prove he can shine in red-ball cricket as well, though the formbook works against him, for Kishan has registered single-digit scores in six of his last eight matches.
6. Abhimanyu Easwaran
Abhimanyu Easwaran has found himself at the periphery of the team on multiple occasions, wherein he served as a standby player. Perhaps, his recent Ranji Trophy exploits could help the Dehradun-born player finally don the precious white. Playing for the runners-up, Bengal, Easwaran accumulated 798 runs, with his average being 66.50.