KOLKATA: Even before Sri Lanka made this short trip, the talk in India was mostly about the upcoming South Africa series. Preparations were done accordingly. Pitch curators were asked to prepare tracks which would be conducive to seam bowling, something that the Cricket Association of Bengal duly delivered.
The Eden Gardens pitch was virtually indistinguishable from the outfield. And with cloud cover, it almost felt like playing in English conditions. Amid such settings, surprising was the omission of Murali Vijay.
Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul have been in good form, but failed to negotiate Suranga Lakmal and went back early. Vijay warrants a place especially considering India’s overseas assignments to South Africa, England, Australia and New Zealand over the next 18 months. Skipper Virat Kohli alluded to it before the match.
“This situation has been there for some time. The balance has swung every now and then between guys doing well and one of them missing out. It happened with KL initially, it happened with Shikhar in between, and now that Shikhar and KL have been playing well, it’s very difficult to pick two out of three when all three are so good.”
The last time India were on the road for a fair amount of time was from December 2013 to January 2015 and Vijay was among the most impressive performers. With 402 runs from five matches at an average of 40.20 including a century and two half-centuries, he topped India’s run-charts in what was a chastening sojourn in England.
In Australia in the four-Test series before the 2015 World Cup, he accumulated 482 runs at 60.25 including a century. He also has a gutsy 97 in South Africa, one of the toughest places for an opener.
Batting coach Sanjay Bangar said that on challenging tracks like the one at Eden Gardens, patience is the key and batsmen have to work hard for runs.
“You’ll have to grind out quite a bit because there are going to be a lot of balls which will beat the outside and inside edge of the bat. You will have to grind it out and take runs. Most of the runs might not be elegant but those are important runs,” the 45-year-old explained. That’s a trait Vijay is known for.
While Dhawan, who scored 190, 14, 35 and 119 in the three Tests in Sri Lanka, made Sri Lanka look ordinary in their own den, his overseas form is not something to write home about. The left-hander averages 27.83, 20.33 and 19.00 in Australia, England and South Africa, respectively. He struggled last time around in South Africa as well.
“He is a stroke-player, one who can change the course of a match in 15 overs. You want a player like Shikhar to play in his own fashion. Sometimes, it may be hit or miss, but we don’t want to curb his style of play,” Bangar said.
Over the past 15-odd months, Rahul has scored 1,086 runs in 14 Tests at an average of 57.15 with India winning 10 of those. Add to it his seven half-centuries on the trot and he is a certainty for the South Africa series. The opening conundrum has hounded the numero uno Test side for a while now with 10 players tried out across all formats in the past year. Though the team management might think of it as a good headache, India need to find a solution before emplaning for abroad.
KL Rahul’s was the 31st instance of a batsman getting out off the first ball of a Test. Express presents facts about the dubious distinction...
Rahul was the 27th batsman to suffer the fate.
Sunil Gavaskar and Bangladesh’s Hannan Sarkar ‘achieved’ it thrice each. No other batsman did it twice.
Rahul is the 6th Indian on the list after Gavaskar, Sudhir Naik, WV Raman, SS Das, Wasim Jaffer.
No of times Indians have been dismissed in such a manner, the most among all nations. England are second (5).
Eden Gardens is the only venue to have witnessed it thrice. Naik (1974-75) & Gavaskar (1983-84) before Rahul.