Indian opening woes in England have been well documented throughout the course of this series. India started with Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay, moved to Murali Vijay and KL Rahul, and then settled for Dhawan and Rahul during the last two Test matches.
Apart from two 60 runs partnerships at Trent Bridge for the third Test, Indian openers have struggled to put together good partnerships at the top, putting a lot of pressure on the batsmen to follow. Little surprise then that Trent Bridge was the Test India went on to win, though the series has already been lost with fifth and final test at Oval to go.
The one man who has played all the four Test matches, KL Rahul, is now under increasing pressure, with several people calling for inclusion of the highly rated teenager Prithvi Shaw for the final Test. Fair to say, the tour has gone a bit pear shaped for Rahul after a fantastic start when he scored a blistering hundred during the first T20 international of the tour.
Rahul has scored 113 runs in 8 innings in England so far and hasn’t touched 50 even once. He is not alone in that though with none of the openers, either Indian or English, managing to score a half century during the series.
The other Indian opener at Southampton, Shikhar Dhawan, has hardly set the world alight either, but his return of 158 runs at an average of 26 is the best among all the five openers tried by both sides during this series, and he has looked a lot more focused after getting dropped for the second Test at Lord’s.
The reason why it won’t be that easy to drop Rahul is because of the vital contribution he is making to the team in the slips cordon. Ever since the retirement of Dravid and Laxman, Indian slip catching has been very poor with several combinations being tried in the slips cordon.
Poor catching hurt them badly during the South African tour where they lost 1-2 and even in England during the first Test match at Edgbaston where Dhawan dropped Curran at a crucial stage before he went on to make a match winning 63. Finally India had a safe pair of hands in the slips in Rahul, and the seven catches he took in Nottingham were an important factor as India cruised to a comfortable victory.
Will Kohli risk weakening that cordon again by dropping Rahul and bringing in the youngster or will Rahul get one more chance to prove his worth as an opening batsman in foreign conditions? We will get to know this Friday.