Monday, October 18, 2021

Rahul, Vihari emerge options to open for India in 1st Test

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Nottingham, Aug 3 (IANS) Injury-stricken India, yet to get their reinforcements, will take on England in the first Test from Wednesday with hopes of ending a streak of series losses which extend to 2011. Even as they have conquered Australia twice over the last decade, India have managed to win just two of the 14 Tests they have played in England. They have drawn one and lost 12.

It will be a tough task to beat England in England considering that India are struggling to find an opener to provide stability and a pace bowling all-rounder who can bring in the balance.

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One thing going for India is that they have managed to spend some time in England.

On all the recent three tours — 2011, 2014 and 2018 — acclimatisation to the weather conditions was a worry. No wonder, India lost series on all three occasions.

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However, the World Test Championship (WTC) final as well as a one-and-a-half month long break after that has given India the time to understand the changing weather patterns as skipper Virat Kohli himself claimed in the media interaction on the eve of the first Test.

The main worry before India then is the opening batting.

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After Shubman Gill returned home due to injury in his left leg, Mayank Agarwal, who was the other opener available suffered concussion after being hit on his head during a net session on Monday. He was ruled out from the Test. Gill’s replacement Prithvi Shaw is yet to join the squad.

With India adamant in playing Cheteshwar Pujara at No. 3, the available options to face the new ball with Rohit Sharma are KL Rahul and Hanuma Vihari.

Rahul has opened in the past and scored a century in the fifth and final Test at the Oval while opening the innings. He is a prime candidate although there have been talks about him being more suitable for the middle-order.

Vihari is the other batsman who can be used to see off the new ball. He has done the opening duties in Australia during the 2018-19 series but opening in England is very different from opening in Australia.

The Dukes ball moves a lot and although Vihari has the experience of county games with Warwickshire this season, his returns weren’t encouraging. Also he didn’t open the batting for Warwickshire.

India could also draft in Shardul Thakur to add some balance as they lack a pace bowling all-rounder. It will be important to see how the pitch behaves. Trent Bridge is the only venue where India have remained unbeaten over the last two tours — in 2014 and 2018. They drew the series opener here in 2014 and won the third Test in 2018.

Skipper Virat Kohli has said that the playing XI will be announced only on Wednesday ahead of the toss. It makes sense because the true nature of the pitch will be evident only before the toss.

–IANS

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