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It’s not end of road for Vihari if he fails to deliver as opener, assures MSK Prasad

Prasad himself had given the role to open for India in Sydney in the disastrous tour of 1999-2000 which India lost 0-3.

Hanuma Vihari
Hanuma Vihari. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP)

India carried a number of opening batsmen in their squad for the Test series in Australia but thanks to cricketing factors like form and fitness, the visitors now have pulled a genuine middle-order batsman to open their innings in the third Test in Melbourne starting Wednesday. Two-Test-old Hanuma Vihari has been picked as one of the openers along with debutant Mayank Agarwal for the crucial ‘Boxing Day’ Test after both KL Rahul and Murali Vijay were dropped because of their horrendous run with the bat.

But what if Vihari fails to deliver as an opener? Are India putting at stake a promising career just because the specialists for the job have come to a cropper. According to chief selector MSK Prasad, such apprehension is without a base for the 25-year-old batsman would be given enough opportunities in his preferred slot in the middle order.

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Prasad also conceded that picking Vihari as the opener is a stop-gap arrangement and not a permanent solution. India’s other opener picked for the Australia Tests – Prithvi Shaw – has been ruled out of the series because of an ankle injury he sustained during India’s practice game in Sydney.

‘Vihari will get fair chance in middle order’

When asked if it was unfair on Vihari, who doesn’t regularly open in domestic first-class cricket either, Prasad said, “He would be given a fair chance in the middle order should he fail to make an impression as an opener in the next two Tests.” The chief selector, who has watched Vihari closely when he bats for his state Andhra in domestic cricket, said he has the skills to face the new kookaburra.

“It’s fine. Technically, we feel that Vihari is well-equipped. There were times where Cheteshwar 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,” the chief selector, who was part of the Indian squad that toured Australia in 1999-2000, said.

Prasad himself had given the role to open for India in Sydney in the disastrous tour of 1999-2000 which India lost 0-3 and he found it too challenging to tackle the bowling of Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee, falling to the former twice in the match.

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