MSK Prasad on Tuesday confirmed that India’s gamble to open with two-Test old Hanuma Vihari was a stop-gap solution with regular openers Murali Vijay and KL Rahul losing form.
Prasad said that the team management was convinced that Vihari, a middle-order batsman, had what it takes to play against the rampaging Australian new-ball bowlers. “We have called in Mayank Agarwal and he is in a good run of form at the moment, especially after the India A series and naturally gets a place,” Prasad told reporters in Melbourne. “And Vihari...the way he has batted has convinced everybody that he has a sound technique to play [at the top of the order].”
Veteran wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel was also in the fray for selection but Prasad said that the balance of the side was kept in mind while picking the team for the third Test with the series level at 1-1. Rohit Sharma, who missed the second Test with an injury, makes his way back into the side while all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja also got a nod.
“Going by current form, the current openers are not living up to the expectations and that is the reason. It is unfortunate. We are also looking the right combination. What Parthiv can’t offer, what Vihari can offer. All those factors are taken into consideration but it is certainly not a long-term solution. Even [Cheteshwar] Pujara has opened in the past because of team requirements.”
When asked about his inputs for the playing eleven as selector-on-tour, Prasad replied, “Yes, I am aware (that the two openers were dropped). It’s a very clearly understood situation that we pick the team, they (team think-tank) pick the playing eleven. But, having said that, the selector on call (tour) is also invited for the discussions.”
Time had already run-out for Rahul, who had scored only 48 runs in four innings this series, including a highest of 44 in the second innings at Adelaide. In this year’s overseas cycle alone, his average had dropped down to 20.94 in nine Tests with only one fifty-plus score.
Vijay had done no better previously – scoring just 49 runs in four innings this series, including a highest of 20 in the second innings at Perth. Overall in 2019, he only averages 18.80 in eight Tests, with one hundred against Afghanistan. Otherwise his highest score this year is 46 in the first innings against South Africa at Centurion. In this year’s overseas cycle, his average drops down to 12.64 in seven Tests.
Jadeja has recovered sufficiently from his shoulder stiffness and takes Umesh Yadav’s spot in the playing eleven. This was after off-spinner R Ashwin was ruled out of this third Test, as he still needs more time to recover from his left abdominal strain.
(With inputs from PTI)