With just a week to go until the opening Test between Australia and India gets underway at the Adelaide Oval, the visitors have been dealt a severe blow with Prithvi Shaw ruled out due to an ankle injury.
With the loss of the 19-year-old opener, India will have to make do without the fearless brand of cricket he has displayed since making his international debut against the West Indies.
The teenager’s attacking mindset and supreme confidence would have been a handy weapon for India against the pace trio of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, with Shaw a certainty to play the opening Test until his unfortunate injury.
With Shaw now ruled out, India have a big question mark hanging over the opening slots for the Adelaide Test. Here, we analyse the various options at India’s disposal.
Shaw’s injury could be a blessing in disguise for KL Rahul who is struggling to hold down a spot in the India Test squad at the moment. The right-hander had a miserable time during the tour of England before he came to life with a brilliant ton in the final Test at the Oval, and he was extremely scratchy in India’s home series against the West Indies.
Rahul’s poor form has continued on the tour of Australia with the opener throwing away his wicket after scoring just 14 runs in the ongoing tour game against a Cricket Australia XI.
“He has been looking in good shape, it is just that he is finding new ways to get out,” India batting coach Sanjay Bangar had said about Rahul following his most recent showing.
With Shaw ruled out, Rahul is now highly likely to take one of the opening slots at Adelaide and it could be his last chance to stake a more permanent claim to that berth.
A few months ago, Murali Vijay’s international career seemed to be all but over after he was axed from India’s squad just two Tests into their five-match series in England following a string of poor scores.
The veteran opener was sent back to India and was subsequently not picked for the series against the Windies. However, just when all seemed lost for Vijay, he won a recall to the Test squad for Australia after impressing in his short stint with Essex in England.
Now, the 34-year-old’s previous experience of playing on Australian pitches could swing the balance in his favour for the opening Test with Shaw unavailable.
It will be a chance for Vijay to prove he still has it in him to open for India and redeem himself after his horror shows in South Africa and England against the moving ball.
India have yet to name a replacement for the injured Shaw but Mayank Agarwal will be one of the first names to be considered. The Karnataka opener had a sensational 2017/18 in domestic cricket, scoring 1,160 runs in 14 Ranji Trophy innings at an average greater than 105.
He also scored a tournament-record 723 runs in the Vijay Hazare Trophy to lead Karnataka to the title and has continued that superb form in his various tours with India A.
The 27-year-old was called up to the Test squad for the Windies’ series but failed to get a single game. Having been a highly consistent performer over the past year, Agarwal has failed to really get his dues and was unfortunate to miss out on selection for the Australia tour.
With Shaw’s setback, it could be the perfect opportunity to blood him in at the international level.
Shikhar Dhawan was another casualty from India’s dreadful display on the England tour with the left-handed opener being dropped from the squad following his susceptibility to the swinging ball.
The 32-year-old was not considered for selection in the Tests against the West Indies and has been relegated to becoming a limited-overs specialist over the last few months.
The southpaw will definitely be considered and he is not short of form or confidence either. Dhawan earned the man-of-the-series award in the T20 clashes between Australia and India with scores of 76 and 41 and his average of over 40 after 34 Tests could turn things in his favour.
The fifth and the least likely option at Virat Kohli’s disposal is having Rohit Sharma open the innings in Adelaide.
The limited-overs opener earned a shock recall to the Test squad for the Australia tour despite not being picked for the clashes against England and then the West Indies.
The 31-year-old has failed to tie down a place in the Test setup despite being handed umpteen chances. Despite his previous failings in red-ball cricket, Sharma has inexplicably been given another run in the Test squad.
Sharma was locked in a battle with Hanuma Vihari to take the No6 slot for India in Australia but with Shaw’s injury, he could find himself as a left-field option for the opening slot given that he has played most of his white-ball cricket in that position.
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