India’s opening dilemma adds to final XI speculation ahead of final South Africa Test | cricket | Hindustan Times
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India’s opening dilemma adds to final XI speculation ahead of final South Africa Test

Ajinkya Rahane and the opening slot continue to dominate headlines as the Indian cricket team gears up for the third Test encounter against South Africa in Johannesburg starting January 24.

cricket Updated: Jan 22, 2018 22:42 IST
Somshuvra Laha
The opening slot remains a concern for the Indian cricket team ahead of the third Test against South Africa.
The opening slot remains a concern for the Indian cricket team ahead of the third Test against South Africa.(AFP)

After going through every combination without Ajinkya Rahane, India may be well-served to give their vice-captain a go in the third Test. But the opening slots may again make it a difficult selection process.

Among the three openers tried out in the series, only Murali Vijay has at least a 46 to his name. Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul didn’t cross 20 in the Test they played. The four opening partnerships have yielded 16, 30, 28 and 11, meaning Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli have been forced to face the new ball earlier than they would have liked.

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With neither opening pair clicking, the Indian management will have a hard time figuring out the openers for the Wanderers Test, where the pitch is expected to be hard, bouncy and assist seam movement. Rahul and Dhawan were the first to bat in the nets on Monday, but Vijay went in later to bat for a long time. All of them practised slip catching too; so it seems the Indian management will not take the final call before looking at the pitch for a final time.

With the batting yet to fire together, India coach Ravi Shastri said everyone has been asked to rectify mistakes. “It hurts a lot. As it is the conditions are very tough, and on top of that if someone gets run out, then you feel bad. And you hope those mistakes don’t happen again because at times they are schoolboy errors. They have to be rectified. In tough conditions like these where there is not much between the two teams, you cannot afford to give away wickets like that. Boys have been told that,” Shastri said on Monday.

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India weren’t happy with the practice pitches during Monday’s training as they were damp. The ground authorities had to requisition a roller to make it firmer. While everyone was given a decent outing, for the first time Umesh Yadav seemed to be in the reckoning, considering the kind of bowling he did in the nets. This pitch may guarantee good returns with an all-pace attack and South Africa may be inclined towards that option too by replacing Keshav Maharaj with all-rounder Chris Morris.

Asked if they could go with five pacers, South Africa pacer Vernon Philander said it would be the management’s call, before reiterating their determination to make it 3-0. “There are no dead rubbers when we play,” said Philander. “We want to win all three, each and every single game we play. The series might be gone, but we want to win this one,” he said.