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Virat Kohli’s India face ‘problem of plenty’ in opening combination vs Sri Lanka

Abhinav Mukund’s performance in the Galle Test has only added to the problem of plenty in the opening slot for Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team ahead of the Colombo Test against Sri Lanka.

india vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Aug 01, 2017 20:00 IST
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Hindustan Times, Colombo
India vs Sri Lanka,India national cricket team,Virat Kohli
Shikhar Dhawan’s magnificent 190 and Abhinav Mukund’s 81 helped India find a new opening combination but with KL Rahul’s return, Virat Kohli’s side have a problem of plenty for the Colombo Test.(REUTERS)

Having gained in confidence after the second-innings knock at Galle, Abhinav Mukund started the nets session assuredly at the Sinhalese Sports Club Stadium on Tuesday, but as soon as chief coach Ravi Shastri came in and stood behind the wickets, the tentativeness surfaced, a natural reaction, so to say.

Suddenly, Abhinav was a batsman who was aware that he was on test. The flow evaporated and it took some time before he started batting with confidence.

After a two-day break, the Indian team had a gruelling training session on Tuesday. There was a lot of intensity, be it in fielding and catching drills or sharpening skills with bat and ball.

However, the spotlight remained on opening batsmen, with Shastri keeping a close watch on KL Rahul, Abhinav and Shikhar Dhawan. He made them bat in pairs, rotating strike every 6-7 balls, pitting them against pace bowlers with one side of the net open to play strokes. Captain Virat Kohli too bowled a longish spell to them.

With Shastri tracking every movement, Dhawan and Abhinav batted with restraint, playing correctly against the likes of Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Hardik Pandya, while Dhawan lashed out at anything pitched on the leg stump.

Except for inside edges on to the pads off incoming deliveries, the two openers, who partnered in the opening Test at Galle, would have passed the test. It means all three are in contention for the second Test.

Going by batting form, Dhawan is ahead, but Abhinav’s fielding has got the team management thinking. The importance of a good short-leg fielder for spinners is not lost on Shastri & Co. Not since Aakash Chopra has India seen a fielder who wants to be in that position. If Dhawan hit a blazing 190 at Galle, Abhinav added two dismissals to his 81 in the second innings with a spectacular effort at short-leg.

For Rahul, it’s about proving his fitness. If he lives up to the rigours of the training session, he should be an automatic choice, which means a straight selection shootout between the left-handed pair of Abhinav and Dhawan.

Coach Shastri said they were monitoring Rahul’s fitness closely. “He (Rahul) is good. We are watching him closely. He went through some tough times, he was in hospital for 2-3 days, obviously it has taken a lot out of him. So, we have to be very careful how we treat him; we are watching him closely and he is getting better by the day.”

First Published: Aug 01, 2017 19:59 IST