Indian sides have historically struggled with their opening pairs in Test matches. But it is also a fact that an opening pair has stood tall and contributed whenever India has done well overseas.
Virender Sehwag and Aakash Chopra provided good starts in 2003-04 when India drew the series in Australia. Dinesh Karthik and Wasim Jaffer contributed well in India’s triumph against England in 2007. The opening pair of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir was also significant in some solid performances of India overseas during the period 2004-2012.
The Indian Test squad which will be facing Australia in less than a month might be a bit worried about this particular aspect. Mayank Agarwal certainly looks settled at one end, with impressive numbers in Tests overall and in Australia specifically. It is early days in his Test career, but he averages 65 in Australia and 57.29 overall with three centuries in 11 matches. He is also coming off a fine run of form in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
However, the past record and the recent form of his potential opening partners could be a reason to worry about the team management. In this light, let’s have a look at the three potential opening partners for Agarwal, and the reason they might struggle against Australia.
3 reasons why Indian openers might struggle against Australia
Rohit Sharma has long been considered a white-ball player. Even though fans and pundits were lamenting the fact that he had not performed in the longer version of the game with the talent that he possesses.
It turned out to be a revolutionary decision to make him open the batting in Test matches last year, as he scored three centuries including a double century in just six innings. However, it might not be entirely wise to read a lot into those numbers.
Rohit Sharma’s numbers in the red-ball game in India have never been bad. He has scored six centuries and averages above 88 runs per innings. But, he averages below 25 in the 18 Test matches that he has played outside India. And more importantly, the 33-year-old is yet to open the batting for India in an away Test match.
One could always hope that going up the order could change his fortunes away from home as well, but it is currently unproven.
KL Rahul has done decently well so far opening the innings for India in Test matches. He averages a shade below 37 with five centuries and ten fifties in 34 innings. One could say that the average could be slightly better, but it is still early days, and he has the potential to produce better numbers.
If we consider this along with the fact that he is coming off a prolific run in the recently concluded IPL, one should feel that Rahul could be a good candidate for the opening slot against Australia.
However, the Karnataka batsman’s record on the bouncy tracks of Australia and South Africa are not very encouraging. Rahul has scored just 217 runs from 13 innings in these two countries.
And if we take out a century that he scored against Australia during the last tour, the numbers would look even worse at 107 runs from 12 innings. KL Rahul will be hoping to turn that around during the current tour if he manages to make the playing eleven.
After being deemed as an extraordinary talent and starting his Test career with 237 runs in just 3 innings against West Indies, Prithvi Shaw was the player to look out for when India travelled to Australia a couple of years back. However, he rolled his ankle during a tour game which ruled him out of the series. It took him another year to play a Test match for India and his returns in the last series against New Zealand were average at the best.
Four Test matches are too early to pass any sort of judgement, but the recently concluded IPL was an indication of the dreadful form Shaw finds himself in.
After starting the tournament relatively well with a couple of good knocks, the 21-year-old suddenly hit a rough patch and looked like being unable to buy a run. He ended the season with just 228 runs from 13 innings at an average of 17.5.
Even more worrisome was his struggle against bouncing and moving balls. He was repeatedly dismissed trying to pull short of a length delivery, which is not a good sign especially going into the bouncy pitches of Australia. It needs to be seen if Shaw gets a game in the series, but the team would hope that he turns it around if selected in the playing eleven.