India go into the third Test in Melbourne with Virat Kohli and number three Cheteshwar Pujara is fine form, effectively carrying their team during the Adelaide and Perth games with contributions from Ajinkya Rahane.
But the opening pair of KL Rahul and Murali Vijay have struggled for runs and Ravi Shastri said on Sunday that needed to change as he demanded his opening batsmen step up to ease pressure Kohli.
“It’s a big concern. It’s obvious and that responsibility and accountability has to be taken by the top order,” he said when asked about the failure of the openers to get a big score.
“They’ve got the experience, they’ve got the exposure over these last few years to get out there and deliver. It’s about how strong you are in the mind.”
Read: KL Rahul, M Vijay, Mayank Agarwal — Who should India open with in the Melbourne Test?
There is no guarantee that Rahul and Vijay will retain their places with in-form Mayank Agarwal called up to the squad as a replacement for injured young opener Prithvi Shaw, who has been ruled out of the series. Shastri praised Agarwal’s recent record and said a call will be taken on whether he will play the third Test.
“Well he’s a good young player, he’s got loads of runs for India A. He’s come through the ranks. When you look at his domestic record, his performances have been as good as anyone. That’s a call we’ll have to take in the next 24 hours,” Shastri said.
Captain Kohli scored a battling century in Perth but he came under criticism for his sledging and heated exchanges with Australian counterpart Tim Paine.
His animated wicket celebrations were also frowned upon, but Shastri said he didn’t have a problem with his skipper.
“What’s wrong with his behaviour? As far as we are concerned, he is an absolute gentleman,” he said.
Shastri also denied India’s morale had taken a hit by losing in Perth after their tense victory in Adelaide – their first Test win on Australian soil in a decade.
“Absolutely not, 1-1 in a series in Australia and we know we had our chances in Perth as well. They’re ready,” he said.
“It’s not often that we’ve been in a position where we’ve won one (on an overseas tour). It’s 1-1. The boys know what they can do, what they’re capable of and the potential that lies ahead.”
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