If India have a weak link in their batting order, it has to be their opening slots. Their opening positions have been a game of musical chairs with Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul and now Prithvi Shaw taking turn to open the batting for India in Test cricket.
Shikhar Dhawan has been relegated as a limited-overs opener for the time being and Vijay was dropped mid-way in the England series before being recalled for the Australia series. Rahul just managed to retain his place thanks to a ton in the last innings of the Test series in England.
Prithvi showed promise when he scored a ton on Test debut against West Indies. But a freak ankle injury ruled him out for the first two Tests against Australia. And India have to go back to Rahul-Vijay pair. Except for the second innings of the Adelaide Test when Vijay-Rahul pair posted a stand of 63, the duo has failed to live up to
expectations on the tour Down Under.
In fact, Indian openers have failed to fire as a pair on away series this calendar year, putting pressure on the middle-order. A successful opening stand is vital to a big total. And Indian openers have flattered to deceive so far.
So, what ails Indian openers, mainly the trio of Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul and Murali Vijay?
Rahul has let technical flaw creep into his batting that allows him to fall victim to bowled or LBW dismissals. He has been either bowled or LBW 11 times out of last 14 innings. He has been susceptible to the incoming delivery, falling all over it. He’s getting squared up, looking to cover the line of the inswinging delivery. It happens when a cricketer plays a lot across the line, thanks to T20 cricket where Rahul is a great success so far in IPL and for India.
So, what’s the road ahead for KL Rahul?
Rahul needs to get back to drawing boards, study where he is going wrong, rectify his technical error and work towards scoring runs. A meet with former players such as Sunil Gavaskar who was the most gifted technically sound opening Test batsman can help him solve his batting woes.
When India kickstarted their overseas Test series this year, Vijay was expected to grind out the opposition with his dour batting and take off the shine off the new ball for the middle-order to make merry. But he has cut a sorry figure in the previous two overseas Test series in South Africa and England. He has lost his batting touch and makes him a walking wicket to new-ball bowlers.
Gone are the days when Vijay used to put a heavy price tag on his wicket. Vijay seems to have lost his confidence, which reflects in his batting. Although a ton in a practice game before the Test series against Australia looked Vijay has finally found form, it was just a mirage and the opener seems to be back to his old habits of falling cheaply.
There’s no such technical flaw in Vijay’s batting but a lack of trust in his game that is proving to be the death knell for the once dependable Indian opener.
The stylish opener is labelled as a limited-overs specialist after continuous failures in Test cricket overseas although he has scored runs at home in the longer version of the game. But in overseas Tests, his technique, his over-aggressive approach has proved to be his undoing.
Dhawan has made merry when he has played Test cricket against any opposition at home. But in overseas, the conditions, his shot selection, his approach to dominate bowling at any cost have cost him his place in the team.
But in limited-overs cricket, Dhawan continues to be a force to reckon with and form a rocking partnership with Rohit Sharma who too has found Test cricket tough to handle.