Opening conundrum

By NT Bureau Published on Mar 10, 2017 09:49 AM IST

The Indian Test team under the leadership of Virat Kohli enjoyed a longish winning streak, until the visiting Australians turned the tables on them on a raging turner at Pune. The Kohli-Anil Kumble combo has tasted success owing to an pro-active approach with the focus being on the method rather than the result, with a touch of aggression.

While the team has posted impressive results and has seen newcomers emerge, the bowlers have got an opportunity to express themselves. Despite the brilliance shown by what is now a formidable batting unit, there seem to be some grey areas. The opening slot with a revolving door sort of situation, due to injuries and loss of form, is one for sure. While Shikar Dhawan, who was the first choice for a while, has fallen out of favour, due to lack of consistency and lack of form, the others like Murali Vijay and K L Rahul seem to be getting the runs but again consistency has been an issue apart from injury. The latter has tended to be a tad inconsistent, he gets big scores or doesn’t make signficant contributions and has sat out games owing to one injury or the other.

Vijay, after a few seasons of being in and out of the national (Test) squad has established himself as the first-choice opener, but has missed out on a game or two, again on account of being injured.

Rahul, who is seen among the future stars of Indian cricket and a key member of the batting unit in the days to come, apparently needs to focus on remaining fit.

Also, the Indian openers haven’t had big partnerships in the last four series and the just concluded Pune Test against Australia. One century stand plus three fifty-plus efforts aren’t the stuff a top quality side would take from its openers. The think-tank would do well to address this issue as the top two would be key when the team plays abroad. The bigger the first wicket partnership the better it would be for the batsmen to follow.

Interestingly, the strong middle-order has helped push the opening woes to the background. And when the engine room (middle-order) fails to get going, as it did in the Australia Test, the results can be damaging.

Now that the Indian management has got forward-looking plans and thinks Vijay and Rahul would be the first choice, if they are fit, it would be better if they are spoken to about being more consistent.

Also, it would not be a bad idea to have a few more specialist opening batsmen waiting in the wings so that they could slot in when the need arises.