India wait for Murali Vijay and KL Rahul to fire in unison against Australia
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India wait for Murali Vijay and KL Rahul to fire in unison against Australia

Despite their impressive individual records, Murali Vijay and KL Rahul have failed to click together as the opening pair of the Indian cricket team.

cricket Updated: Mar 02, 2017 23:21 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
N Ananthanarayanan
Hindustan Times, Bengaluru
Murali Vijay,KL Rahul,India vs Australia
Murali VIjay and KL Rahul have not performed well as an opening pair for the Indian cricket team.(PTI)

The hallmark of any great cricket team has been a solid opening combination. That was the case with the great West Indies side of the 1970s and 1980s, where Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes together demoralised the opposition bowlers even before Viv Richards strode on to the crease.

It was no different when Australia became the world’s best team in the mid-1990s. Matthew Hayden, having rediscovered his game, and a more steady Justin Langer ---- and Michael Slater before that --- laid the platform for the middle-order to take over. Then came Ricky Ponting, Steve Waugh and Adam Gilchrist, tearing the confidence of the opponents to shreds.

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India, the current No 1 Test team with an ambition to dominate overseas, too have two solid opening batsmen.

Murali Vijay, 32, has been a silent but vital contributor with the bat. He has been on top of his game for a few seasons now, a picture of consistency. He has toned down his aggression and given India the kind of steady start they need.

For instance, starting with the 2014 tour of England, he has aggregated 2003 runs with an average of 43.54.

KL Rahul, 24, has played aggressively right from the time he made his debut, on the 2014-15 tour of Australia, where he struck a century in only his second Test. He backs himself to play shots whatever the situation may be.

In an ideal world, he should have struck a great partnership with Vijay.

But despite their impressive individual records, the two have failed to click together.

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They have opened together in eight Tests, and 13 innings, but have had just one stand above 50 (52 against New Zealand in Kanpur last year).

Either of the batsmen gets out early, the latest example coming in the first Test against Australia in Pune. In the first innings, Rahul struck 64 while Vijay was out for just 10.

Opening partnerships call for great understanding and the need for the two batsmen to complement each other.

Rahul, so far, has waxed or waned. In his 23 Test innings so far, he has four centuries and two half-centuries, which is excellent going. However, in 12 of those innings, he has not crossed even 10.

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That may partially explain why the partnership with Vijay has not caught fire. Interestingly, when Rahul opened with Parthiv Patel in the fifth and final Test against England in Chennai, he struck 199 after a 152-run stand with Parthiv, who scored 71. Vijay batted at No 6 following a shoulder injury.

Going into the Bangalore Test, with India desperate to win, the opening partnership could prove vital.

It will provide the platform for Cheteshwar Pujara to come in at No 3 and play freely. And that would lay the base for skipper Virat Kohli to dominate the attack rather than fight for survival.

Vijay, for one, does not see any reason behind the failure of his partnership with Rahul. “I don’t think that way,” he told the media in Bangalore when asked about his partnership with others clicking but not with Rahul. “Maybe a big partnership is around the corner. Hopefully, it can happen in this Test.”

That would be a perfect launchpad for India to fight their way back from the hole they are in at the moment

First Published: Mar 02, 2017 23:21 IST