India’s regular Test opener, Murali Vijay, has been ruled out of India’s upcoming tour of Sri Lanka due to a wrist injury that has been troubling him for a while. Out of the 13 Tests from India’s long home season, Vijay missed only one Test. Later, he revealed that he had been playing with a fractured wrist. The Tamil Nadu batsman was in a terrific form, having kicked off the home season with two fifties against New Zealand in Kanpur, followed by two hundreds against England and a century in the one-off Test against Bangladesh. From 10 Tests he has played in 2016-17, he has piled up 700+ odd runs; inclusive of three centuries and three half-centuries.
His injury has made way for Shikhar Dhawan, who has been recalled to the Test squad after a gap of few months. The last Test he had played was during the home series against New Zealand in 2016. After missing the first Test, he was roped in for the second in Kolkata. However, he produced a disappointing performance with scores of 1 and 17 before he suffered a thumb injury in the same match. That ruled him out of the final Test and the limited-overs series subsequent to that.
Even after Dhawan was available for selection, he was ignored for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy earlier this year, which he protested with his team of experienced lawyers. However, in the end the selectors went with KL Rahul, who proved to be a better player than Dhanwan, for scoring six fifties in the seven innings he had batted during the four-Test series. It is safe to say that with Rahul, who scored 393 runs in four matches against Australia, has sealed his spot as India’s permanent opener in the Tests, partnering Vijay. With the latter unavailable for the Sri Lanka tour, there will be a battle between Dhanwan, backup opener Abhinav Mukund and Rohit Sharma, for Vijay’s replacement.
Considering the technicalities in cricket, whenever a player is injured, his backup player in the squad must be included in the playing XI. Since Mukund is the backup opening batsman in India’s 16-man squad, he must get a direct entry into the playing XI, owning to Vijay’s injury. However, whenever the 27-year-old has gotten an opportunity, he has never justified it. In 2011, Mukund played five Tests and had registered only a single fifty. The last time Mukund was called as Vijay replacement, which was against Australia in Bengaluru in March, he failed miserably with a duck in his first innings followed by 16 in the next. He was immediately dropped in the third Test.
Having played six Tests so far, he has scored only 227 runs at 18.91. After 12 innings, he has only one fifty to his Test account and these numbers don’t seem to back him against the likes of Dhawan.
Meanwhile, talking about Dhawan, he does have an experience of opening the innings with KL Rahul. Out of the 23 Tests he has played so far, he has opened with Rahul in four matches. Rahul and Dhawan, together, have put up 244 runs for the first wicket in five innings. Moreover, Dhawan was a part of India’s squad in their previous Sri Lanka tour in 2015. He played the first Test in Galle before he was ruled out for the rest of the tour due to an injury. It was Dhawan’s debut on the Lankan soils and he began his journey in Sri Lanka with an incredible century. Sadly, his 134 came in India’s losing cause.
On the other hand, Rohit Sharma, who is the third candidate for Vijay’s replacement also stands little chance to grab the position. While Dhawan and Mukund have an experience of opening in Tests, Rohit has never opened in the whites. He began his Test career with a blast, scoring two centuries in the first two Tests but since then he has failed to reach the triple digits in the longest format. He had played all the three Tests in India’s 2015 Sri Lanka tour, batting at either No. 3 or No. 5. However, now India have more effective players for those positions who have scored runs consistently in the recent times—Chesteshwara Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane. Rohit’s inclusion in the playing XI looks highly difficult at the moment.