India’s first choice test openers are out of the first test. Murli Vijay played through a broken wrist in India’s home season in 2016 – 2017 and has been advised rest by BCCI’s medical team. KL Rahul, who was all set to make a comeback after recovering from a shoulder injury that kept him out of IPL, has contracted flu and has been advised to rest for the first test.
Now, that leaves two options with Team India. First is the like-for-like replacement, i.e. to replace Rahul with the back up opener in the squad Abhinav Mukund, who has scored heavily in the domestic season alongside Shikhar Dhawan. Second is to replace Rahul with the best ODI opener of India, Rohit Sharma.
Rohit however has never opened in Test Cricket or Ranji Trophy before and while some may argue that this would be unfair to the reserve opener, keeping Rohit out of the test squad isn’t a great idea either. We all know what happened when a middle order batsman from Delhi who never opened in any form of cricket, opened for India and ended up scoring more than 17,000 international runs. Yes, Virender Sehwag made his debut in the Indian team as a middle order batsman and proved to be one of the best openers the game has ever seen.
The lesser known fact is that even Yuvraj Singh was tested as an opener against Australia in a test match in India. Though he didn’t get a long run on that spot, limiting to one solitary opportunity in which he remained not out for 8 in the 2nd innings and failed in the first of that test.
Rohit’s story has been similar but somehow restricted to ODIs and T20s only. If Rohit Sharma can be tested as an opener, the best place after Eden Gardens (:P) is Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is not known for its seam friendly conditions. More often than not, Sri Lanka prefer to open their bowling with the left arm spin of Rangana Herath, which shows both, lack of seam friendly conditions as well as dearth of quality seam bowling talent.
In case Abhinav is awarded the opening spot and India opt to play five bowlers then Rohit may again have to warm the bench, which is cruel for a man whose records in limited over formats are second to none. If India opt for four bowlers and do not give Kuldeep Yadav game time, it could be a big mistake as Kuldeep has shown great promise in the limited opportunities he’s got and his wicket taking ability may prove to be more than handy in the Lankan conditions.
On the other hand, Hardik Pandya’s emergence has made the competition for the middle order spot even tougher for Rohit. Hardik is the number one pick for the all rounder’s spot, should India choose to play one apart from Ashwin and Jadeja. He possesses great skills with both bat and ball, which evidently is improving with each match he plays. But the low score in the solitary practice match has done him little good.
It is highly improbable that India choose Rohit as an opener having Mukund and Pujara as tried and tested options to partner Shikhar, but with the kind of love that the newly appointed coach of India, Ravi Shastri and Captain Virat Kohli have for Rohit, you cannot rule this out completely.
My XI [I wish to see]: 1. Dhawan 2. Rohit 3. Pujara 4. Kohli 5. Rahane 6. Ashwin 7. Saha 8. Jadeja 9. Bhuvneshwar 10. Kuldeep 11. Shami
My Predicted XI: 1. Dhawan 2. Mukund 3. Pujara 4. Kohli 5. Rahane 6. Rohit 7. Ashwin 8. Saha 9. Jadeja 10. Bhuvneshwar 11. Shami