India got off to the worst possible start to their much-anticipated campaign to the series down under. After winning the toss and electing to bat first, it lost both the openers and its best batsman within the first hour itself. All three perished to shots outside the off stump to balls they could have left alone.
However, unlike in the two previous overseas series in South Africa and England, India has bolstered its batting line up in the first Test of a series by bringing in a sixth batsman. That could come in handy for India in this Test and the series, going forward.
In Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, India has two experienced campaigners, with each capable of spending time on the pitch. They can buckle down. The pitch will become better for batting with each passing minute, and they need to show patience and leave balls outside the off stump.
This also presents a great opportunity for India’s limited over batting colossus, Rohit Sharma. If he can score big in this Test, especially after the failure of the top order including that of Kohli, he would not only have rescued India but made a giant stride towards cementing his place in the Test side.
At number seven, wicket-keeper batsman Rishabh Pant is a very capable batsman. Though his form has been patchy in the limited-overs format, he has been in great form in the Test format, as was evident from his exploits with the bat in England and against West Indies at home.
Though India would have liked a better start, with four proper batsmen to follow and the all-rounder Ashwin at number eight, India does have the required batting depth to withstand the onslaught from Australian bowling, and put on a substantial score.
The fact that Australia are going to bat last on this pitch which may assist spin and become difficult to bat on days four and five means, India need not panic as yet. With Kohli having a rare failure, it’s time for other batsmen to rise to the challenge.