Despite Vijay, Dhawan injuries, openers not a worry for Kohli | cricket | Hindustan Times
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Despite Vijay, Dhawan injuries, openers not a worry for Kohli

With Lokesh Rahul’s arrival, skipper Virat Kohli looks spoilt for choice for the first two batting slots.

cricket Updated: Aug 26, 2015 11:50 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
Rahul raises his bat in celebration after scoring his century. (Reuters Photo)
Rahul raises his bat in celebration after scoring his century. (Reuters Photo)

India’s opening slots for the best part of the last two decades had resembled a thin crust. Virender Sehwag changed those perceptions to a great extent, but he was someone who took up opening because No 3 to 5, and at times 6, were taken by the phalanx.

That situation has undergone a sea change over the last two seasons and it has only got better with the 23-year-old Lokesh Rahul stepping up in his fourth Test to score his second century and help India wrap up a record win in the second Test against Sri Lanka at the P Sara Oval on Monday.

The injuries to Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan has saved the team management from any dilemma over which two to pick. In a different scenario, there would have been major concerns once Vijay and Dhawan were ruled out. But Rahul’s confidence and Cheteshwar Pujara being a proven top-order batsman, especially in the sub-continent with past experience as an opener has eased any concerns.

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Growing stature

Vijay has become the leader of the opening pack, maturing into a class batsman. Barring his failures in New Zealand early last year, he did well in South Africa, England and Australia since late 2013. He was in excellent touch, scoring a big hundred in Bangladesh and a solid half-century in the second Test.

Although he needs to curb the tendency to play wild hook shots, Rahul’s temperament and technique won him praise. He failed in Melbourne on debut, but struck a century in the next Test in Sydney. Shikhar Dhawan struggled in England and Australia but clicked in New Zealand, though his aggression and confidence have been impressive.

The Sinhalese Sports Club (SSC) ground is expected to challenge batsmen, unlike in the past when the pitch was flat. Rahul spoke about the bonding among the openers despite the competition and how they feed off each other’s success. "From the team’s point of view, it is a great place to be in. All our openers are getting runs and with every given opportunity, all of us are making the best use of it. We are enjoying each other’s success, spending a lot of time together at the nets, talking to each other, trying to give each other a lot of inputs and talk about the bowlers."

Giving flexibility

Skipper Virat Kohli sees youngsters like Rahul provide flexibility. "These are the guys who are going to play Test cricket for a long time. And guys can be shuffled up and down the order according to what the game demands. You might see people floating around according to situations in the game. Ajinkya Rahane has come on beautifully in the last year-and-a-half. So, even when I am padded up at No 4, these guys when they get a partnership going you feel that belief in them.

Thus when two openers were ruled out, the team could call up a middle-order batsman in uncapped Karun Nair to give him exposure because Pujara can open. "He (Pujara) is pretty solid, and with the new ball he has opened in the subcontinent before. Karun is pretty aggressive and expressive, but the idea behind getting Pujara to open along with Rahul is that gives us even more batting options to play around with," Kohli added.