Murali Vijay–Abhinav Mukund, Gautam Gambhir-Abhinav Mukund, Gautam Gambhir-Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid-Virender Sehwag, Murali Vijay-Shikhar Dhawan, Murli Vijay-Gautam Gambhir: These are the various opening combinations the Indian Cricket Team have tried overseas since the tour of West Indies way back in June 2011. More than three years had passed by since then. In the meantime these opening pairs failed to stitch together a 50 plus partnership in Test Cricket away from home.
Indian team management gave the players a lot of chances on a fair basis to prove their worth. Apart from Murali vijay no one proved a point and justified their selection. Shikhar Dhawan showed some early promise but started failing consistently. Mukund was an interim replacement for Sehwag in the 2011 England series from where disappeared from the scheme of things. Dravid was made to open when Gambhir was injured but he scored runs from his end whereas the wickets tumbled from the other end.
Sehwag, on the other hand literally forgot how to bat and been hitting a pale patch even in home Tests. Even Gambhir started failing in away conditions that made him to be dropped in the expense of Dhawan and later replaced his Delhi teammate in the ongoing 5 Match Test series in England. Currently Murali Vijay is the only batsman who can be trusted at the top of the order. His fellow opener’s slot is the vulnerable area of the line-up. The selectors are still persisting with the tested names rather than some new faces. Wasim Jaffer, who has opened for India in Test matches in the past is a domestic run machine who scores tons of runs just to see himself getting ignored time and time again. Another option for the selectors in case they opt for a young blood is Punjab opener Jiwanjot Singh, who had a couple of good seasons. There is nothing wrong in testing new strategies rather than failing with an existing one.
Skipper MS Dhoni along with coach Duncan Fletcher should consider taking some bold moves in order to win overseas. Trailing the series 1-2 to hosts England and the final match is about to begin in few hours, the team management has a huge task of picking the right man to partner Vijay at the top. With Dhawan likely to sit out and Gambhir struggling to find runs under his belt, it won’t be a bad idea to promote in-form Ajinkya Rahane to open alongside Vijay. With both Vijay and Rahane in fine form throughout the series, the side can expect a pretty decent start at the top which eases the pressure in the batsmen who follows them. A good start would be the perfect script for struggling Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli to bat without any pressure on them. Rahane is not a new kid on the bloke for Opener’s slot as he started his career as an opener for Mumbai and had moved to middle order just to earn a place in the Test team when the likes of Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman retired within a quick time. Rahane has opened for India in ODI’s and Twenty20’s.
Rahane has performed consistently well for Mumbai when he was opening and has averaged over 62 in his first 100 first class innings. Rahane values his wicket a lot has the perfect technique, resilience and composure to handle the new ball and get the team to a good start. If Rahane is asked to open the innings, his Mumbai teammate Rohit Sharma will take his place in the middle order.