The Past: Abhinav Mukund and Virat Kohli made their debut in Test cricket on the same date at Sabina Park, Kingston in Jamaica against the Windies in the year 2011. While Kohli could manage to score just 76 runs in his five outings to the crease, Mukund had a slightly better record as he managed to churn out 147 runs in his first outing with team India.

India’s next destination was England, which was nothing less than a nightmare for the team. The party of World Cup Champions of 2011 were obliterated by the hosts as the MS Dhoni led side failed to win even a single contest on the tour. In addition to that, several players got injured and returned back home, which added to the misery.

Out of Mukund and Kohli, the former was the one who was with the team on the plane to England and Kohli flew back to India. He was though later called on the side as a replacement for Yuvraj Singh during the series but failed making it to the playing XI.

Mukund played the iconic Test match at Lord’s, which was the 100th test between India and England. Along with that, it was also the 2000th Test match in the history of cricket. After one more game, Virender Sehwag made a comeback and Mukund was dropped. He was never called back to the Indian cricket team until 2017.

After that tour, the life of Virat Kohli and Abhinav Mukund took a U-turn. Kohli is the captain of the Indian cricket team whereas Mukund is still looking for opportunities to survive in the game.

Both Mukund and Kohli have played with each other from their under 19 days. Mukund was the part of the India U-19 team that won the junior World Cup in 2008 under the leadership of Kohli.

It is ironical how the careers of Mukund and Kohli have gone. The third debutant in the game against Windies -- Praveen Kumar -- is also now a commodity who is less heard of and can be seen only in domestic cricket. He played in IPL 2017 but with limited success. He was in the news when he joined a political party last year.

The Present:
(Image Credits: AFP)

Shikhar Dhawan was at Disney Land in Hong Kong, enjoying with his family, after he found his name missing from the list of the Test squad for India’s Sri Lanka voyage. Murali Vijay, India’s regular opener was declared unfit for the tour and Dhawan had to cut short his vacation to join the team.

He was not the preferred choice as an opener and Mukund was all set to open the innings with KL Rahul but a fragile Rahul had to stay back in Colombo due to viral fever. Life gave Dhawan another chance. He was selected in the playing XI and the ‘Gabbar’ of the Indian team grabbed the opportunity with both hands, plundering 190 runs on day 1, which earned him the Man of the Match honour.

The series of events which have happened in the past few weeks indicates that destiny wants Dhawan to open the innings in the second game along with KL Rahul - who is fit and raring to bat. On the other hand, if Mukund is not given a chance in the second game, then this can prove costly to him and he might be dropped -- as for the next series, Vijay will join the team whenever fit.

The MSK Prasad led selection committee has taken bold steps in recent times. They called in Parthiv Patel when Wriddhiman Saha was injured before the Mohali Test against England last year. The Gujarat skipper too cashed in on the opportunity and in three games he played in, Patel scored 195 runs at an average of 65.00. His brave move to open the innings in Chennai Test after sitting behind the wickets for 157.2 overs was lauded by everyone but he was dropped as soon as Saha was declared fit. The message was clear, the regulars will be considered for selection as soon as they are fit and replacements are sundry items – even if they perform.

Patel rebounded with an innings of 143* in the Ranji final and led Gujarat to a maiden title triumph but all was in vain as Saha continued to be there with the team for rest of five Test matches in the home season.

The second case of selectors and captain sticking to the regulars was when Karun Nair – the only second Indian to score a triple century in Test cricket - was dropped from the playing XI after playing iconic innings of 303*. The prime reason for him being dropped was the comeback of Ajinkya Rahane - a regular member of the team.

The people running the team believe that they should persist with the regulars instead of replacements so as to prevent the problem of choice.

In this present scenario, Mukund is the one who has come on the tour as a regular. He is not a replacement for any player whereas Dhawan is. Though Dhawan’s innings of 190 is special but not as special as 303* of Nair, after which he was dropped.

That’s the conundrum which lies ahead of skipper Virat Kohli. KL Rahul – the regular member of the team - is all set to make a comeback for the second Test match in Colombo, which leaves only one slot open for a player as an opener.

The Future -
(Image Credits: AFP)

The two contenders in the list to open the innings alongside KL Rahul are Shikhar Dhawan – Man of the Match of the first Test match - and Abhinav Mukund, who is not a regular but came as one on this tour.

The former has fumbled and let the opportunities slip from his hands in Test cricket for the past one year - barring this innings in Galle. The latter earned a comeback on the side earlier this year, riding on his superlative show at the grassroots level ie. domestic cricket.

The availability of these two at the top has left Virat Kohli and the team management in a tizzy and a final decision lies with the Indian skipper.

In case Dhawan finds a place in the team, it will lead to a violation of the policy selectors and captain opted for during the home season -- that of retaining regulars. If Mukund opens the innings with KL Rahul – it will not be surprising but will put the southpaw under immense pressure to perform at the given stage, to save his place in the team. A failure in doing so and Mukund might have to face the grind of domestic cricket again for years to come.