India’s opening conundrum in Tests

When Virat Kohli ahead of the first Test of Oh-my-yet-another-Test-series-against-SL said the following,

a few outrages are expected but is the Indian skipper wrong? Is he backing his supposed to-be-friend over a technically correct batsman? Let’s find out.

Since the start of 2016, if I told you that the averages of the two opening batsmen for India are 35.66 and 51.40, you would be inclined to think that the higher average would be that of Murali Vijay and not Shikhar Dhawan – but that’s not the case and therein lies the answer to the Murali Vijay’s woes in Test cricket. He began really well as he normally does in any series, against England but tapered towards the end. A decent Australia series was followed by a wrist injury that ruled him out of the series against Sri Lanka and ironically, opened the door for Dhawan.

When you do hard work away from home, it is when you are returning to your soil that you would be expecting to cash in and make the most of batting in favourable conditions but it’s something that has deserted Murali Vijay. Since the start of 2016, all three openers for India, Rahul, Vijay and Dhawan have scored over 300 runs in a series. What sets them apart is the manner of their scoring. While Rahul and Vijay’s runs came against Australia and England, it can’t be put against Dhawan for scoring runs vs SL. Dhawan’s runs came at an average of 89.50 striking at 104.67 which compared to that for Murali Vijay stand at an average of 46 and strike rate of 43.96. As Kohli said, it is what Dhawan brings to the table for India that.

Vijay has got a consistent run yet hasn’t taken off like Shikhar. Murali takes his time to get in but has somehow not managed to score the big runs. It is what Dhawan does though. When presented with an opportunity, he is known to make it count with a stellar show. It is a double-edged sword though. Shikhar can enjoy the comeback games but it is living up to the expectations of his impact knocks that will tell whether he will have a long run or not. What makes a difference is an opposition and what is the requirement of the side. Against Sri Lanka, India may not need the defence and time game from Vijay but will Dhawan be well-equipped with his technique to survive on the South African tracks?

There are times when things are not black and white. It is not right or wrong for India to prefer one skill over the other. The only thing Vijay can complain about is his failure to convert the starts that he has got. Knowing Dhawan and his flashy game, Vijay’s time may not be far away but it is about time he nailed the spot with both time and runs to back his solid game.


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