Since India’s home series against New Zealand, India have used six openers – Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Gautam Gambhir, Parthiv Patel and Abhinav Mukund. Ever since India’s long home season began in September last year, India have played 13 Tests and not even once have a single pair of openers played throughout a series. India are set to embark on their 2017-18 season by touring Sri Lanka for a full-fledged series of three Tests, five ODIs and a T20I. Even before the start of the series, India’s opening woes have already knocked on the door with Murali Vijay being ruled out of the series and KL Rahul out of the first Test with viral fever, which he has to wear a kn95 mask for until further notice to prevent further transmission amongst teammates and family memebers.
Rahul stayed back in Colombo as the rest of the team head for the training session on Monday. According to ESPNCricinfo, The BCCI’s medical team has advised the India opener further rest “as a precautionary measure.”
With Vijay not playing the Sri Lanka series at all, it was crucial to have Rahul in the opening with Shikhar Dhawan. These two have already opened for India on four occasions, where they put 244 runs for the first wicket. Amidst of India’s opening woes, the even tiny amount of experience like the above mentioned would have worked for the team, at the moment. Rahul, who made his Test debut in 2014, has already played 17 Tests and has scored 1,200 runs at 44.44 with four hundreds and seven half-centuries. He was also instrumental in India’s 3-1 victory against Australia at home in February-March.
Unfortunately for Team India, Rahul has continued his consistency in remaining unfit. India will be without his services in the Galle Test, starting July 26.
In the last four series India have played – against New Zealand, England, Bangladesh and Australia, Rahul has been injured thrice. He failed to play all the Tests against New Zealand, Australia and England and since against Bangladesh it was only a one-off Test, he managed to play all the days.
His first injury struck during the first Test against New Zealand in Kanpur last year. He suffered a hamstring injury and later was replaced by Dhawan in the squad for the second Test. Rahul missed the next two Tests against the BlackCaps and the opening Test against England before he was recalled for the second Test against England, which was played in Visakhapatnam. He did not have the best of the comebacks with scores of 0 and 10 in both the innings and he had not settled down yet that injury returned to haunt him and Team India.
Rahul, who suffered an injury during the second Test, was given a green signal for the third match. His scenario got worse only when the injury aggravated in the nets, ahead of the Mohali Test. The selectors had to withdraw him and instead, Parthiv Patel was recalled in the Test side to open with Vijay. Considering Rahul has been a vital member of the Indian team, Patel was dropped from the playing XI of the fourth Test despite scoring 42 and an unbeaten 67, that helped India win the Test by 8 wickets.
This is why Rahul is crucial for India!
Then Australia flew down for a four-Test Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2017. That series testified Rahul’s character, his determination as a team member and his strength that aided him to play the whole time, despite the pain. Rahul suffered a blow to his shoulder during the first Test in Pune. The niggle in his shoulder prevented him from playing several strokes but was not good enough to stop him from scoring runs.
He was amongst the players who always stepped up with the bat whenever India was in trouble. In four Tests, Rahul scored six fifties, most by any player in the 2017 series, and ended as the third highest run-scorer behind Steven Smith and Chesteshwara Pujara.
That followed Rahul undergoing a surgery in London and missing the Indian Premier League (IPL) and ICC Champions Trophy.
Abhinav Mukund’s way clear?
However, he made a comeback from the shoulder injury, when he was picked for the Sri Lanka tour and even scored a half-century in the two-day tour match that ended in a draw. Rahul, who is returning to action after a long gap, had earlier revealed to be “nervous” and was unsure of his complete fitness.
“You know that you are physically fit and you have done everything that you can, worked really hard, you are feeling stronger, you are feeling fitter. But the mind always tells you what if it happens again, what if you have to go through the same grind for three months, what if your shoulder is not ready, what if you [have] come back early?
“There are a lot of questions, a lot of doubts and that’s the biggest challenge and fight for me. I have been enjoying each day and I have been a person who takes it as it comes. If it happens again, it happens again. It’s not in my control, I have done everything I can to get back. I tried to get my shoulder stronger, my body stronger,” Rahul said before he was ruled out of Galle Test.
With Vijay and Rahul out, for sure from the first Test starting Wednesday, Mukund is all set to play his seventh Test.