No openers left for India to try for third Test


While his fitness is definitely one of those, one huge area of concern for the Indian team going into the third Test starting on Saturday is the form of the openers. Not that any batsman other than Kohli has come close to looking comfortable on this tour, but the Indian team has already played all its cards as far as the opening slot is concerned. While in the first Test it was Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay who opened the innings, the second Test saw Vijay and KL Rahul taking guard. But such is India’s plight that all three have failed to make any impact. While Dhawan managed 26 and 13 in Birmingham, Vijay, in addition to the pair at Lord’s, got 20 and 6 in the first Test. Rahul batted at No. 3 at Birmingham before being promoted to the opener’s slot at Lord’s, and his scores of 4, 13, 10 and 4 haven’t come close to inspiring confidence. It’s true that the red Duke ball does quite a bit when it’s new, but the technical deficiencies of the openers have been out there in the open. While Rahul and Dhawan seem to get drawn into playing the away-going deliveries way too easily, Vijay’s tendency to play on the on-side against the swinging ball has made him vulnerable to the likes of Anderson.

“It’s a basic that you don’t try to play a shot on the on-side against the moving ball. I don’t know what they are doing and whether the coaches are telling them where they are going wrong,” former India wicketkeeper Farokh Engineer, who also opened occasionally and has a lot of experience in England, told TOI after the Lord’s debacle. In the first half of the Test series in England in 2014, Vijay had looked assured against the ball outside the off stump and he was ready to leave a lot of deliveries. But that sense of assurance is somehow missing from his game this time and it means a huge amount of pressure on the middle-order, especially Kohli. A top No. 4 doesn’t mind coming in at 10/2 a few times, but if it becomes a regular feature, it takes quite a toll on the player. Sachin Tendulkar, in the pre Virender Sehwag-Rahul Dravid era, had to deal with such situations regularly and now Kohli, too, is facing a similar test. Kohli, himself, though, is not ready to blame the openers in public, rather he wants to say it’s a collective failure. “Even if you’re 10 for 2, it doesn’t mean that the guys following after should just succumb. And we should not expect sitting in the change room that we will only bat at 100 for 2. We have to look forward to the difficult situation and try to make that into a good situation,” Kohli said, giving the impression that he wanted to share the blame.