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India tour of Australia: The openers will be crucial, and they have their job cut out

Australia is never an easy tour for the batters and double the task if you are facing the music first up.

Written by Sahil Malhotra | Updated: December 8, 2014 9:55:24 pm
Mirali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan face a stiff test Down Under (Source: AP) Mirali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan face a stiff test Down Under (Source: AP)

While the Indian pace department does look a fired-up unit, the batting, considered to be the strength of the Asian giants, has an issue before the series Down Under starts.

Australia is never an easy tour for the batters, and double the task if you are facing the music first up. Over the years, barring a series or two, Indian openers have struggled Down Under.

The chin music, coupled with some fine use of the ‘pitched-up’ stuff, has made life difficult for the Indian openers. When fans back home wake up rubbing their eyes in the chilly winter of December, the scorecard reading 20/2 has been the unwanted eye-opener. Can they change the scenario this time around?

Blast from the past

Like it or not, Virender Sehwag has been India’s most successful opener on Australian soil. Does this mean that the only way to survive is to hit your way out of trouble? Not quite. Aakash Chopra’s defiant defences and resilience were a perfect exhibition of the art of survival against the moving ball.

Sehwag’s 464 runs, almost a double hundred, at a staggering average of 58 played a major role in the drawn 2003-04 series. His then Delhi teammate Chopra’s contributions can’t be ignored too as the right-hander played a perfect partner. Sehwag would go hammer and tongs from one end, and determined Aakash would keep on presenting the dead bat.

Cut to the present

In Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay we have an ideal left-right combination. But the duo, together, have failed to deliver the goods abroad, and on a consistent basis. Even while Vijay’s run, in patches, was very encouraging, Dhawan looked all at sea against the moving ball in England.

Australian conditions won’t be as swinging and moving like England, but the pace and bounce pose a challenge. Both the openers don’t shy away from playing their shots but Dhawan’s knack of playing one shot too many has backfired in the past. It is important that the openers, Dhawan in particular, stick to their natural game — the game he displayed during his Test debut against Australia, the game which put him in the limelight after the long domestic struggle for Delhi.

If he aims at spending time in the middle, he won’t last long. That’s just not his game. It’s not just see-the-ball-hit-the-ball either, but positive and aggressive cricket.

Vijay, on the other hand, is much settled than Dhawan. A good England series, decent outings in the tour games, and Vijay looks all set to deliver.

The reserve

Rahul

In Karnataka batsman Lokesh Rahul, India have a very solid and composed reserve opener. Solid technique, wide array of shots, no trouble against the rising ball and ability to shift gears with ease make this youngster a complete package.

His recent run in the domestic circuit, latest being the twin tons in the Duleep Trophy final, pushed his inclusion in the senior squad. He was a class apart in the Duleep final against an attack comprising the likes of Pankaj Singh and Ishwar Pandey. The right-hander pulled them with control, drove with class and dispatched the spinners – Piyush Chawla and Ali Murtaza – with fierce power.

From a distance, he looks like Rahul Dravid…right from the tap on the wicket to taking the guard with utmost ease and precision. Dhawan and Vijay will have to be at the top of their game as this youngster is waiting, and waiting to grab the opportunity which comes his way.

Come Tuesday, if India bat, the fans back home will get an idea on whether the scoreboard would wake them up or give them a reason to enjoy the cup of tea.

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