Who Will Open for India With Mayank Agarwal in Boxing Day Test?

Will India keep faith in Shaw? Will Rahul bat up the order or will Gill slot in for his U-19 teammate?

3 min read
Sunil Gavaskar has backed KL Rahul to replace Prithvi Shaw as opener in Melbourne. 

Putting behind the Adelaide debacle, the Indian team led by stand-in-skipper Ajinkya Rahane and head coach Ravi Shastri have a few problems to negotiate. For starters, the problems at the top of the order continue to be a cause of concern with young Prithvi Shaw failing to turn around his fortunes.

Now with no Virat Kohli from the second Test onwards and with Rohit Sharma yet to complete his quarantine, India’s batsmen’s already difficult task has become more daunting, especially given the confidence and form the opposition bowlers have shown.

There’s been plenty of speculation about the positions KL Rahul and Shubman Gill might take up in Melbourne. Will India keep faith in an out-of-sorts Prithvi Shaw? Will Rahul bat up the order or will Gill slot in for his U-19 teammate?

We take a look at the recent performances of the opening options at India’s disposal.

KL Rahul

The limited overs vice-captain came to Australia on the back of some fantastic form in the IPL (760 runs in 19 innings) where he finished as the top scorer in the tournament. Rahul has been in outstanding form in the shorter formats since late 2019, however he has not done justice to his talents with the red-ball, where there have been flashes of brilliance along with long periods of failure.

Rahul has played 20 Tests as opener and has scored 4 centuries with 1084 runs to his name from 33 innings. After his brilliant 149, at the top of the order at The Oval in September, 2018, Rahul has not registered a fifty in 12 attempts and has 7 single-digit scores in this period as well. In his 36 Tests overall, Rahul has scored 2006 runs with 5 centuries and 11 fifties to his name.

Rahul had also completely failed as an opener the last time India toured Australia in 2018-19. He had registered scores of 2 and 44 in Adelaide, 2 and 0 in Perth and 9 at the SCG. He has scored a hundred (110) opening the innings in Australia in 2015 in Sydney.

Rahul has the ability and the temperament to succeed in Australian conditions and the Melbourne track, which isn’t likely to be a very fast-paced one might just help the Karnataka man get his Test career back on track.

Shubman Gill

The tall Punjab batsmen has been impressive from the get go and has been among the favourites for experts like Sunil Gavaskar and Allan Border, both of whom have praised his assured and elegant approach quite a bit.

Gill, who is yet to make his Test debut, however has the experience of playing unofficial Tests overseas for India A. Earlier in 2020, he scored a double hundred and a hundred against New Zealand A. His first-class record in India too is fantastic with an aggregate of 2162 runs in just 22 matches at an average of 69.74 including 7 hundreds.

Technically correct and always seemingly with that little bit of more time when dealing with pace, Gill top scored for KKR in the IPL (440 runs from 14 innings) and has also scored 970 runs in 8 unofficial Tests since 2018.

Gill however has played most of his knocks for India A in the middle order but has looked assured in the top order whenever he has played there too.

His half century in the warm-up game against Australia A in Sydney had the commentators swooning over his exquisitely timed shots.

Prithvi Shaw

Out of form and low on confidence, Shaw has been at the receiving end of some very harsh criticism in recent weeks. In six knocks so far on the tour, he has got 66 runs with four single digit scores. However, before Adelaide, Shaw, who played 4 Tests had done well, scoring an aggressive century on debut against West Indies and a dogged half century in New Zealand in the second Test.

In his Test career, all of 5 games now, he’s registered only two single digit scores but it is his recent run of poor form, which began midway through the IPL that is the cause for concern. He survived all of 6 deliveries in Adelaide and the dip in form is definitely a worry for India.

At the Boxing Day Test in 2018, India had yet another decision to make about the opener’s slot and Hanuma Vihari walked out with debutant Mayank Agarwal. The latter went onto to score 76 and thwarted the opposition bowlers very effectively along with Cheteshwar Pujara.

Both Pujara and Agarwal will hope that whoever fills up the gap in the top 3 can do a similar job as a good start to the innings can help post a big total, something India will need for sure with their ace bowlers Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami unavailable due to injury.

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