Opening track playing on loop
By Venkata Krishna B | Express News Service | Published: 03rd August 2017 07:53 AM |
CHENNAI: If one goes by the indications that skipper Virat Kohli gave on the eve of the second Test against Sri Lanka that starts in Colombo on Thursday, Abhinav Mukund will surely make way for the fit-again KL Rahul.
If Murali Vijay — the other regular opener — was watching Kohli address the media at his residence in Chennai, he will easily relate to what will be going through the mind of his long-time opening partner in Tamil Nadu side: Abhinav.
The opening slot in Tests is India’s golden goose. Though Vijay and Rahul are the first-choice openers, the team has never missed their services whenever one or both of them sat out because of injuries.
Yes, it is a happy headache, but it also tells us how the team management has a cushion that not many teams in the world have. Leave aside the Sri Lanka series, one that India in all probability should seal before departing for Kandy. There are bigger challenges that lie ahead of this team, starting from the tour of South Africa towards the end of this year. And that is the issue India should sort out before it turns into a migraine.
During India’s previous away assignment in West Indies in 2016, Rahul replaced an injured Vijay in the second Test and scored 158. That innings virtually kept the latter benched for the third Test as Shikhar Dhawan retained his place. And now, after the first Test in Galle, Rahul seemed to be in such a place. But it is Abhinav — despite his 81 in Galle — who will warm the bench at the Sinhalese Sports Club.
No matter in what way Kohli says that his players actually understand the reason behind getting dropped, the captain and the team management might have to think from the players’ perspective too. Abhinav was the third-choice opener for this tour, until an injury to Vijay allowed Dhawan to fly to Sri Lanka instead of spending time with his family in Melbourne.
It isn’t Dhawan’s fault that he responded with his career-best of 190, and thereby ensuring another run. But between Dhawan and Abhinav, India needs to sort out who their third-choice opener is going forward.
More than Dhawan, it is Abhinav who needs game-time, and despite making a comeback to the side, he hasn’t had an extended run. The numbers might not be impressive, but in Dhawan, India has already invested enough. The rewards — especially overseas — haven’t been encouraging. There is no guarantee that he will replicate the sort of free-flowing innings he played in Galle, in Durban, Wellington, Nottingham, or even on the flat decks in Australia.
In contrast, Abhinav is a traditional opener who has spent a decade in domestic cricket, grinding it out day-in and day-out in a variety of conditions. Though Kohli could have chosen to retain Dhawan and Abhinav, he has shown Rahul that he is his first-choice, considering that the right-hander is at equal ease against both pace and spin.
“It is very important to make Rahul feel at ease, especially because he played the practice game as well and looked really solid. He has batted really well in the last couple of seasons for us. It is very important for us to make him feel that this is his spot. And it won’t be changed because of unfortunate events that happen outside of the playing field, or injuries that you can’t control,” said Kohli.