Australia vs India: MSK Prasad names visitors' opening pair for the Boxing Day Test

Australia vs India: MSK Prasad names visitors’ opening pair for the Boxing Day Test

India announced their playing eleven for the third Test against Australia on Tuesday.

MSK Prasad
MSK Prasad. (Photo credit should read WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)

India announced their playing eleven for the third Test against Australia on Tuesday. On the very expected notes, India took a huge call on their out-of-form openers, dropping both KL Rahul and Murali Vijay. The duo managed only one double-digit stand midway through the four-Test series in Australia when they shared a 50-plus stand in the second innings of the Adelaide Test. Opening partnerships have always been crucial in overseas Tests and India have paid a hefty price this year for their opening woes.

Rahul and Vijay’s struggles in the series piled more pressure on the middle order of a team with a lengthy tail. That number three Cheteshwar Pujara has had to walk out to bat inside four overs on three of the four occasions so far pretty much proves how poorly the openers did in the first two games. In fact, in the 11 innings they partnered in the opener’s position for India, they managed to score together only 166 runs.

It was the opening partnership that eventually made the difference in the second Test which the hosts won by 146 runs. The 112-run first innings stand between Marcus Harris and Aaron Finch laid the platform for Australia’s 300-plus total in a low-scoring contest. Even in the second innings, Australia’s first-wicket stand was worth 59 runs as the hosts won the game to level the series.

And with another overseas Test series on the line, India did not hesitate in dropping Rahul or Vijay. However, the team-management surprised one and all by naming just one specialist opener in the playing eleven in the form of uncapped Mayank Agarwal. The right-hander, who has scored heavily in domestic cricket and for India in the last one year or so, replaced injured Prithvi Shaw for the last two Tests.

India also recalled Rohit Sharma who had missed the last Test due to an injury. Rohit’s inclusion made many speculate that the limited-overs opener will finally be tried at the top of the order in Tests too. However, chief selector MSK Prasad’s latest statement suggests otherwise.

Prasad hints on India’s opening combination

The former India wicketkeeper-batsman hinted that not Rohit but Hanuma Vihari is likely to be promoted to open the innings alongside Agarwal. Praising Vihari’s technique, Prasad revealed why Parthiv Patel was not picked in the team despite being an opener.

“We have called in Mayank Agarwal and he is in good form after that India A series, so naturally he gets into the side. And the way Vihari batted, it convinced everybody that he has got that sound technique to play,” said Prasad.

“Going by current form, we all know that the current openers are not really living up to the expected things. That is the reason why… It’s really unfortunate. I can definitely say that it’s really unfortunate but going not only by form but we also look at the combinations – what Vihari can offer, what Parthiv Patel may not offer. All those things are taken into consideration while picking the XI,” he added.

The chief selector further cited Cheteshwar Pujara’s example to justify the team management’s decision to not play two specialist openers. “It’s fine. Technically we feel that he is well equipped, there were times where Pujara also opened when the team required. The team demands it and definitely, I hope he will come out successful. Definitely, it is not a long-term solution, I can tell you that,” he said.

Well, it means Rohit will bat at his usual number 6 spot as India look to bounce back from the defeat in the last Test.

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