India's Shubman Gill bats during play on day two of the second cricket test between India and Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake)(AP)
India's Shubman Gill bats during play on day two of the second cricket test between India and Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake)(AP)

India vs Australia: Will opening blues end for Team India as new combination takes guard in Sydney? - Analysis

The latest to bite the dust is Mayank Agarwal, who has been benched for the crucial third Test match in Sydney. Agarwal made his Test debut against Australia in 2018 and showed great technical acumen and grit to cement his place in the side. But he has been all at sea against the pace and swing of Mitchell Starc this time and that has cost him his place in the playing XI.
By Arnab Sen | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 06, 2021 07:10 PM IST

Opening the batting in Test cricket is akin to being on the front line during a war. The vagaries of the red cherry in helpful conditions can make even the most technically sound and equipped batsman come across as an oaf. The challenge has risen a fair amount in modern day cricket with players having to play three different formats.

Test cricket statistically is the least played format and for the opening batsmen to mould their game to suit it remains a big worry. Some are naturally disposed to make this adjustment while the others have to work harder.

This is primarily the reason why Team India has struggled to find a stable opening pair in whites, since Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir left the scene. While many have shone in conditions back home, almost no one has managed to hold on to their place while playing in the tough conditions of the SENA (South Africa, England, New Zealand, Australia) countries.

ALSO READ: India announce playing XI for Sydney Test, Navdeep Saini to make debut

The latest to bite the dust is Mayank Agarwal, who has been benched for the crucial third Test match in Sydney. Agarwal made his Test debut against Australia in 2018 and showed great technical acumen and grit to cement his place in the side.

But he has been all at sea against the pace and swing of Mitchell Starc this time and that has cost him his place in the playing XI. India’s decision to go in with Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill makes it their third opening combination in as many matches, with Prithvi Shaw failing miserably in the first Test.

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In 2020 India played a total of four Test matches, and in those 8 innings their opening partnership managed to put just 104 runs on the board at an average of 13 with no half-century stands to their credit. This is the worst performance by the opening stand of any team in Test cricket in 2020.

Not just 2020, the performance of the opening combination in away Tests has been dismal for a while now. This has been a big reason why India has not managed to win Test series away from the sub-continent despite having one of their best bowling units ever.

From the Test series in South Africa at the beginning of 2018 onwards, the opening pair has not managed to average above 25 in any of the 6 away tours. There has been no century stand, while there have been only four 50-plus stands, out of which three came in the five-match series in England in 2018.

The numbers clearly show how India desperately need an opening pair that manages to spend some time in the middle and thwarts the threat presented by the new ball. The good thing is that both Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill are shot makers and have the ability to get runs on the board quickly.

This will be a huge Test for Rohit, who will be playing his first Test series an opener away from home. He reignited his red ball career in 2019 as he scored heavily in Indian conditions while opening the batting. The team management would hope he continues in the same vein alongside Gill, who looked impressive on debut at Melbourne.

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India's Rishabh Pant plays a shot. (REUTERS)
India's Rishabh Pant plays a shot. (REUTERS)

'Pant is in the side to do what he does, can take games away from opposition'

PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 10:26 PM IST
"When players are allowed to play as well as they are and showcase the skills that they can ... Rishabh Pant is in this side to do what he does, like he did today, take games away from the opposition," Patel said at the virtual post-day press conference.
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England spinner Jack Leach (2L) celebrates with teammates after dismissing Indian batsman C Pujara (L), during second day's play of the 4th and last cricket test match of the series between India and England, at Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, Friday(PTI)
England spinner Jack Leach (2L) celebrates with teammates after dismissing Indian batsman C Pujara (L), during second day's play of the 4th and last cricket test match of the series between India and England, at Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, Friday(PTI)

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PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 09:35 PM IST
Not only has Jack Leach kept India’s finest grafter Cheteshwar Pujara in check, he has achieved it by making him defend from the crease. Every time.
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Former England cricketers took to Twitter to praise Rishabh Pant
Former England cricketers took to Twitter to praise Rishabh Pant

England greats in awe of Pant, Twitter flooded with congratulatory posts

PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 09:09 PM IST
  • The likes of Nasser Hussain, Michael Vaughan, Andrew Flintoff, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell took to Twitter to admire Rishabh Pant’s century against England on Day 2 of the 4th Test on Friday.
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Sri Lanka's Dasun Shanaka (C)(BCCI)
Sri Lanka's Dasun Shanaka (C)(BCCI)

SL's Dasun Shanaka cleared to travel to Windies, will join during ODI series

ANI
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 08:15 PM IST
Shanaka, who was named in the 'White Ball Squad' for West Indies series, did not travel with the team due to a visa issue he confronted, pursuant to the loss of his previous passport, which had a valid visa for the USA stamped on it.
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Indian batsman R Pant celebrates his century during the second day of the 4th and last cricket test match between India and England, at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, Friday, March 5, 2021. (PTI)
Indian batsman R Pant celebrates his century during the second day of the 4th and last cricket test match between India and England, at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad, Friday, March 5, 2021. (PTI)

Rishabh Pant, pauses and then purrs for a glorious century

PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 08:10 PM IST
Pant was first about to prove just how reliable he could also be while employing the dead bat to play second fiddle to Sharma. Only much later, after a large swathe of time had been spent blocking and well after ensuring that India had closed in enough on England’s first innings total did Pant cut loose to bring up his first international hundred in India.
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New Zealand's Tim Seifert, left, returns to the crease as Australia's Ashton Agar fields during the 4th T20 cricket international match at Wellington Regional Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand, Friday, March 5, 2021. (AP)
New Zealand's Tim Seifert, left, returns to the crease as Australia's Ashton Agar fields during the 4th T20 cricket international match at Wellington Regional Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand, Friday, March 5, 2021. (AP)

Crowds allowed for double-header in New Zealand

PTI
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 07:52 PM IST
Wellington had been placed under Level 2 of the alert system which allowed sports events to take place behind closed doors. However, the restrictions have been relaxed.
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Rishabh Pant talks about his reverse sweep off James Anderson
Rishabh Pant talks about his reverse sweep off James Anderson

Pant reveals thought behind playing reverse sweep against Anderson

UPDATED ON MAR 05, 2021 09:26 PM IST
"You have to premeditate reverse-flicks, but if luck is going your way you can take the odd chance,” Rishabh Pant said reacting about his reverse flick that amazed England cricketers including James Anderson himself.
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File image of Sunil Gavaskar.(Getty Images)
File image of Sunil Gavaskar.(Getty Images)

Humbling if fans put me in same bracket as Mr Bachchan and Kishore: Gavaskar

PTI
UPDATED ON MAR 05, 2021 06:37 PM IST
Humbling if fans put me in same bracket as Mr Bachchan and Kishore Kumar: Gavaskar on another '50'
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File image of BCCI president Sourav Ganguly.(Getty Images)
File image of BCCI president Sourav Ganguly.(Getty Images)

'He will be an all-time great in all formats': Ganguly's prediction for Pant

PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 06:12 PM IST
Lauding Rishabh Pant for his brilliant hundred against England in the 4th Test, Sourav Ganguly predicted that the India left-hander will be an ‘all-time great in all formats of the game’.
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India's Rishabh Pant celebrates scoring his century(REUTERS)
India's Rishabh Pant celebrates scoring his century(REUTERS)

India vs England 4th Test Day 2: Action in images

PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 05:57 PM IST
India vs England 4th Test Day 2: Here is all the action from Day 2 of the final Test in images.
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India's Rishabh Pant plays a shot during Day 2 of the fourth Test against England at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad.(REUTERS)
India's Rishabh Pant plays a shot during Day 2 of the fourth Test against England at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad.(REUTERS)

4th Test, Day 2 Report: Pant smashes ton as India seize control from England

PTI
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 05:51 PM IST
  • India vs England: For someone, who has always been panned for his lack of game awareness, it was Pant 2.0 at play where he defended when it was necessary but unlocked his brutal attacking instincts when required.
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Virat Kohli celebrates Rishabh Pant's hundred against England(Twitter)
Virat Kohli celebrates Rishabh Pant's hundred against England(Twitter)

Watch: Kohli jumps off his seat, runs to balcony to celebrate Pant's hundred

UPDATED ON MAR 05, 2021 07:21 PM IST
Virat Kohli jumped out from his seat and ran towards the balcony of India’s dressing room when Pant got to his third Test hundred by hitting a six off England captain Joe Root in the final session of Day 2 in Ahmedabad.
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India's Rishabh Pant celebrates after scoring a century on the second day of the fourth Test cricket match between India and England at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Motera.(AFP)
India's Rishabh Pant celebrates after scoring a century on the second day of the fourth Test cricket match between India and England at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Motera.(AFP)

Rishabh Pant - The ninja in the pack for Team India

UPDATED ON MAR 05, 2021 05:27 PM IST
  • India vs England: Rishabh Pant has always had an undeniable fire in his belly. The same fire that helped him burn down Australia's edifice of invincibility at 'The Gabba'.
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Rishabh Pant plays a reverse sweet against James Anderson in 4th test in Ahmedabad(Twitter)
Rishabh Pant plays a reverse sweet against James Anderson in 4th test in Ahmedabad(Twitter)

Pant's outrageous reverse sweep off Anderson stuns England cricketers - WATCH

PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 04:51 PM IST
In the first ball of the 83rd over, Pant played a reverse sweep over the slips that raced away to the boundary. Yes, a reverse sweep. Off James Anderson. With the second new ball. All of these happened for real in the final session of Day 2 in the India vs England fourth Test match at Ahmedabad.
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Australia's Steve Smith(AP)
Australia's Steve Smith(AP)

Give Smith the captaincy if he wants it: Khawaja

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON MAR 05, 2021 04:41 PM IST
Smith, who led the team for nearly three years, was stripped of the captaincy and banned from leadership roles for two years in the wake of the Newlands ball-tampering scandal in 2018.
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