24 March 2019 09:16 PM

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SANDIPAN BANERJEE | 8 DECEMBER, 2018

Ideal Opportunity for India to get Rid of Over-Dependency on Virat Kohli

Focus on youngsters


Since the arrival of the Indian team on Australian soil, it seems their entire country is obsessed with Virat Kohli. Their media coverage of the series is focused around the Indian skipper. Their broadcaster is pushing ‘King Kohli’ related content as much as possible on air to create the buzz. Even his net practice videos are going viral on social media.

Well, amid such a craze surrounding Kohli, at time it seems he is the one-man army in this Indian team. And considering the performances of the Indian batting in the recent tour of South Africa and England, such a tag does not seem like an exaggeration.

During the three-match series in South Africa, with 286 runs in six innings at 47.67, Kohli was by far the best batsman on display from both teams. The next top performer with bat in hand from the Indian camp was Hardik Pandya, who scored 119 at 19.83.

In England, the same trend followed as the Indian captain topped the batting chart with 593 runs at 59.30 in 10 innings, whereas the next best visiting batsman was KL Rahul, who got 299 at 29.90.

Hence, on tricky foreign surfaces, this over-dependency on Kohli of the Indian batting line-up is clearly evident. And the upcoming four-Test series in Australia, where the pitches are expected to be slightly more suited to the other Indian batsmen, presents an ideal opportunity to put up a collective performance, rather than a one-man show.

Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, two stalwarts of this batting line-up, certainly need to be more effective as batsmen in the SENA (South Africa, England, New Zealand and Australia) countries. There is no problem with the skillset and on multiple occasions the duo has proven that with crucial contributions on challenging conditions. However, those knocks are few and far between.

In England recently, Pujara scored 278 runs in eight innings at 39.71 including a gutsy hundred in Southampton and seemed like the most dependable Indian batsman after Kohli. Whereas vice-captain Rahane had a pretty below par outing with 257 runs in 10 innings at 25.70.

In South Africa their record was even worse as Pujara got only 100 runs in six knocks and Rahane couldn’t even feature in the XI in the first Two Tests.

Well, without a doubt both are certainly better players than this sort of track record and in Australia they have to pull their socks up for a significantly improved show. Remember, the time is running out for them as there are young performers like Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair, who are waiting in the wings.

Following the batting debacles on foreign tours in the recent years, the Indian team management has decided to fast-track youngsters like Prithvi Shaw, Rishabh Pant and Hanuma Vihari to the highest level. And in Australia, against the likes of Mitchell Starc and Co. the skillset of these newcomers will be under the scanner. Any significant performance in Down Under can define their careers. Even someone like KL Rahul, who has been around for a while, but yet to cement his place in the XI, will face a stiff challenge against the new ball.

Final opportunity for Rohit Sharma and Murali Vijay?

Thanks to his white-ball heroics, Rohit Sharma has been brought back in the Test squad and on bouncy Australian pitches, at No. 6, he can be a handy option. However, in the past similar sort of prediction were made about Rohit in red-ball cricket, but when the opportunity came, he failed to deliver. And now he is almost truing 32. Hence, for Rohit, this tour of Australia is perhaps the final opportunity to sort out his Test career. One feels, if he can work on his temperamental aspect, there is no reason why Rohit cannot be consistent in Test cricket.

The scenario is quite the same for Murali Vijay, who seemed like losing his mojo as a batsman in South Africa and England. Timing is the key aspect of his batting throughout Vijay’s career, but of late he has struggled with it. In India’s last touring cycle in SENA countries, barring Kohli and Rahane, Vijay was the only batsmen who averaged more than 40. But in the present cycle, the right-hander is nowhere close to emulate that glorious phase of his career. And if he doesn’t get runs in Australia, the think-tank will certainly look beyond him.

Overall, this is the tour, which will define the future of this India Test team in many ways. They aim to be the best touring side and in order to achieve that target; the batting should not rely heavily on one particular individual. So, it is high time that these Indian batsmen should live up to the expectations.
 

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