Mayank or Rahul: Who Replaces Injured Shubman Gill in England?
Do India have enough at the top of the order to keep England at bay in their own backyard?
Ahead of the England Test series, one of the Indian men’s cricket teams areas of concerns is the opening combination. While Rohit Sharma is unstoppable on his day and Shubman Gill has shown that he can hold his own in hostile conditions, the recent form, and an injury to the young right hander is a headache for the team management.
After the euphoria of the Australia series, the Indian top order has not done too well in recent games. Other than the second innings in the World Test Championship final against New Zealand, there have been no half century partnerships between Shubman and Rohit.
And at the same time, unfortunately for India, Cheteshwar Pujara hasn’t been at his best either, putting a fair bit of pressure on the middle order.
With reports suggesting that Gill is out for a while, India need to find a solid replacement quickly along side Rohit. An out-of-form Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul, who hasn't played a Test in two years, and Bengal’s Abhimanyu Easwaran, whose inclusion as a standby opener has already raised eyebrows, are among the options in England for Ravi Shastri and Virat Kohli.
Over the course of the five Tests, India might try out more than one new pair at the top if Gill isn’t back to full fitness early enough. Unfortunately, though, the back up cast aren’t in the best of form and India might be forced to think out of the box.
Before the start of the tour, there were some questions raised on the depth of the batting department. Do India have enough at the top of the order to keep England at bay in their own backyard?
Having made his Test debut in one of the toughest places, the MCG on Boxing Day, Mayank is not unfamiliar with the job. In 14 Tests, Mayank has scored 1052 runs at an average of 45.7 and has smashed 3 centuries and 4 half-centuries.
He has a career-best of 243 which shows that he can play those long innings and he needs to make sure that he is consistent enough if he finds a place in the playing XI.
But in his most recent outing in Australia, he had a torrid time with scores of 17, 9, 0, 5, hasn't been tried again since then. He did not feature in any of the four Tests against England at home or in the WTC Final against New Zealand.
A fine batter at the top of the order and in the middle, but it is in white-ball cricket he has done most of his damage. Rahul hasn’t played a Test in 2 years and had been dropped due to a poor run of form.
Rahul had played all the Tests the last time India travelled to England but it was only in the final Test, at the Oval, that he managed to get some runs - 37 and 149. Apart from that he struggled against the moving ball. But since hasn’t had a score of note and was dropped after the tour of West Indies in 2019.
In 36 games he has scored 2006 runs with a highest score of 199 and an average of 34.58. And most of these runs have come at the top of the order.
Easwaran is expected to be drafted from the reserves into the Indian squad as the replacement for Shubman Gill in the five-match test series and the Bengal lad has been knocking on the door. India could try out a fresh face in Abhimanyu Easwaran to counter the English bowling attack.
The youngster has scored 4401 runs in 64 first-class matches at an average of 43.6 but for him too recent form has not been very good. The right-handed Easwaran wasn't even among the top five run-getters for Bengal in Ranji Trophy in 2019-20, the last time the tournament was played.
His only first-class knock of note in the 2019-20 season came during Duleep Trophy -- 153.
One of the heroes of the Sydney Test and a hero in terms of helping people with resources during the COVID-19 pandemic, Vihari could be a very crucial part of the Indian batting in the English summer.
He’s even better settled than the rest of the team in terms of local conditions due to his county stint with Warwickshire.
His technique is excellent against the new ball and has done the job briefly in Australia too. His immense experience in domestic cricket might just help the cause.
Vihari has played 12 Tests and scored 624 runs at an average of 32.8 with one century and 4 four half-centuries.
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