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Struggling Rahul faces axe for South Africa Tests

September 11, 2019 15:41 IST

'KL is definitely a great talent. Of course, he is going through a bit of a tough time in Test cricket and we are definitely concerned about his form'

KL Rahul

IMAGE: KL Rahul has played 36 Tests but failed to score a half-century in his last seven matches. Photograph: BCCI

Finding a solution to India's top-order batting conundrum will be top of selectors' agenda when they meet on Thursday to pick the squad for next month's home Test series against South Africa.

Despite being the world's top-ranked Test side India have struggled with their opening combination, which, in turn, has heaped pressure on the middle order.

 

Since 2018 KL Rahul, Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Parthiv Patel, Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal and Hanuma Vihari have all opened in Tests but none have been able to cement their spot.

Experienced duo Dhawan and Vijay are not expected to be considered after repeated failures while Prithvi Shaw is currently serving a doping ban.

Rahul has played 36 Tests but failed to score a half-century in his last seven matches while his opening partner in West Indies, Mayank Agarwal, has just four Tests under his belt.

With Ajinkya Rahane and Vihari putting in solid performances in the middle order in two Tests against the West Indies, Rohit Sharma has had to sit out, prompting calls to try the limited-overs opener at the top of the order in the longest format too.

"As selection committee, we haven't met after the conclusion of the West Indies tour. We will definitely take this (Rohit as opener) point into consideration when we all meet and discuss about it," India's chief selector MSK Prasad told India Today.

"KL is definitely a great talent. Of course, he is going through a bit of a tough time in Test cricket and we are definitely concerned about his form. He needs to spend more time on the wicket and regain his touch and form."

Rohit, 32, has secured his place at the top of the order in the Twenty20 and 50-over formats and finished with the most runs at the recent World Cup in England.

The only player in the world with three double hundreds in one-day internationals, Rohit bats in the middle order in the longest format but has never really flourished on the Test stage.

He was dropped following a poor return in South Africa in early 2018 when he scored 78 runs in four innings. He played two Tests in a four-match series in Australia at the end of the year, missing one match with injury and another due to the birth of his child.

Bengal opener Abhimanyu Easwaran, a prolific run scorer in domestic cricket last season and for India 'A', could be rewarded with a place in the Test side as a reserve opener, if Rahul is left out.

All-rounder Hardik Pandya, who was rested for the West Indies tour, is set to be back in the Test squad.

Virat Kohli's side should not see too many changes in the rest of the batting order while the bowling unit, which led them to a 2-0 win against the West Indies and to the top of the World Test Championship table with 120 points, should also remain mostly intact.

Vishakhapatnam will host the first Test between India and South Africa from October 2 followed by matches at Pune and Ranchi.

Likely squad:

Virat Kohli (captain), Ajinkya Rahane (vice-captain), Cheteshwar Pujara, Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul/Abhimanyu Easwaran, Rohit Sharma, Hanuma Vihari, Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant (w/k), Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami/Umesh Yadav, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav.

Source: source
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