Team India impressed with their performance in the first Test in Nottingham, which ended in a draw. They needed 157 runs going into the final day with nine wickets in hand. However, rain played spoilsport as Day 5 was completely washed out. While Jasprit Bumrah and KL Rahul were India’s star performers, the middle-order yet again failed to deliver. While skipper Virat Kohli fell for a golden duck, Cheteshwar Pujara made four in the first innings and Ajinkya Rahane ran himself out for 5. All three have been struggling in Tests for a couple of years now. And while Kohli is expected to get a longer run for obvious reasons, time seems to be running out for Pujara and Rahane. In the wake of their latest failures, we look at five players who can replace the duo in the middle-order.
He opened the innings in the first Test in Nottingham and played a stellar knock of 84, in what was his first Test innings in nearly two years. However, Rahul was actually selected as a back-up in the middle-order for the series. An injury to Shubman Gill and Mayank Agarwal suffering concussion left India with no option but to ask Rahul to open. He did a fantastic job. And when either Gill or Mayank or both are available, Rahul can be moved into the middle-order. He has revealed that he is ready to bat anywhere for the team, which is of great quality.
Alternatively, if India want to continue with Rahul at the top of the order, they could try and fit in Mayank Agarwal in the middle-order. With India running out of batters due to injury woes in Australia, Agarwal got a chance to bat down the order in Brisbane and he scored a reasonably good 38 in the first innings before giving his wicket away. Considering that he has been struggling for runs as an opener of late, India might as well give him a chance in the middle-order.
He may not have been consistent for India so far. But it is equally true that Hanuma Vihari hasn’t got a long enough run in the middle-order. With Kohli, Pujara and Rahane occupying three spots, Vihari got a chance against Australia after the Indian captain flew back home. He struggled but the stonewalling effort in Sydney brought him recognition. Vihari has even opened the innings for India. Although his average of 32.84 from 12 Tests is hardly anything to rave about, he has given enough glimpses to indicate that he could be part of India’s middle-order. Vihari scored a half-century on debut at The Oval, has a century in Kingston and compiled a fifty under tough conditions in Christchurch last year.
Some may say it may be too early to push Suryakumar Yadav into the Test squad but he can be certainly groomed. Also, Yadav is actually quite an experienced hand at the domestic level. He has played 77 first-class matches for an average of 44 and is 30 years old, the age at which Mike Hussey made his Test debut. While one cannot compare the two cases, Hussey’s success is an excellent illustration of how years of hard work at the domestic can bear fruit. So there is no reason why India shouldn’t give Yadav a chance in Test cricket.
Mumbai batsman Shreyas Iyer can be considered a dark horse for the middle-order spot. So far, he has been considered as a white-ball specialist. But there are some cricket experts in India who feel that Iyer has the technique and temperament to succeed in Test matches as well. In fact, the 26-year-old has more than a decent first-class record. He has scored 4592 runs in 54 matches at an average of 52.18 with 12 hundreds and 23 fifties.