“You have got to seize the opportunity if it is presented to you.” Not everyone gets a second chance that easily and Indian opener Abhinav Mukund, certainly belongs to that category. He has never had the luxury of receiving multiple chances on the international level. He has always been recalled only when there are a few injuries and every single time, the Tamil Nadu skipper has failed to seize the opportunity. When the same story repeated this time around, during the first day of the opening Test between India and Sri Lanka at Galle, Mukund faced heavy criticism on social media from the fans. If at all India does not bat again in the Test, it will be an arduous task for Mukund to make his way into the Test side in the future.
India’s stepson – Mukund
While players such as Rohit Sharma have been given several chances, despite not producing the required results, Mukund has been given a stepson’s treatment. Rohit, since his Test debut in 2013, has scored only two centuries. The two hundreds came in the first two matches of his debut Test series. Following that, he is yet to a record a score in triple digits in the whites and still, the Mumbai batsman continues to be a part of the side and has played 21 Tests to Mukund’s 6 Tests.
In the 13 innings, Mukund has batted, he has managed to score just one half-century. He made his Test debut in 2011 in the West Indies along with Virat Kohli. In the last six years, while Kohli climbed up the ladder so fast that he is the Indian captain today, Mukund’s graph never moved ahead. In his first year in the Tests, he played in all the three Tests against West Indies and featured in two matches during India’s tour of England for a four-Test series. The Nottingham Test in 2011 was Mukund’s last appearance in the Indian Test team before he earned a surprise recall after six years.
During India’s home series against Australia earlier this year, India’s regular opening batsman Murali Vijay suffered a niggle in his shoulder and was ruled out of the Bengaluru Test. Instead of going for Shikhar Dhawan, who has played relatively better than Mukund in the past, the selectors once again showed faith in the Tamil Nadu captain. Owning to Mukund’s 849 runs from 10 Ranji Trophy matches in the 2016-17 season, he was given a huge comeback. All he had to do was, grab the opportunity, score runs and impresses the selectors. However, Mukund made the Indian selectors regret their decision of choosing Mukund when he dismissed for a duck in the first innings followed by 16 runs in the next.
The transition problem
The reason that Mukund has been recalled twice in the same year is his performance in the domestic circuit. In the 2016-17 Ranji Trophy, he was the leading run-scorer for his side and averaged more than 65 in the 10 matches he had played. Mukund, who made his First-Class debut back in 2007, has 8000+ runs with his highest score being an unbeaten 300. There is no doubt that he has an abundance of experience in First-Class and which is why he must be given a fair amount of chances to at least prove himself. By giving a player a couple of Tests to make his mark is not justified. There is a vast difference between domestic and international cricket. Mukund might be the best batsman in Ranji Trophy; obviously, a batsman does not face the best of deliveries there and hence get accustomed to not being under immense pressure as he has already mastered the bowlers of domestic circuit.
The same batsman, who is high on confidence with his performances in the First-Class, will take some time at least to make a transition from the level of domestic to the international level. The highest level will not give him the same number of poor deliveries, which he was used to playing at the domestic level. In the current Indian Test team, there is only Ajinkya Rahane, who has successfully made a transition from a domestic player into a top-class Test batsman. Even he has played approximately the same number of First-Class matches as Mukund and even Rahane has scored 8000+ runs there but the fact that unlike Mukund, Rahane was given his time to get settled on the international stage.
It will not be fair if Mukund is completely blamed for his failures in Tests. If a batsman, from the domestic circuit, is not given enough time to get used to the higher level, one cannot expect to score century after century in the handful of given opportunities. Mukund is no gifted player that he will give you results at the very first or the second shot; he needs some time to get into the groove of the intensity of Test cricket. If the Indian selectors do not think this way, it seems highly unlikely that Mukund will get any chance in the coming series.