'Opening combination still a concern'

If there is an area of concern for the Indians in a series of plusses, it is the opening partnership. Although openers Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul have scored a century each and Murali Vijay a fine half-century, as an unit the openers have failed to deliver.

In the opening Test where Dhawan and Rahul opened, they forged just 14 and 12 runs respectively in the two innings. Back to the fold after recovering from a hamstring injury, Vijay kick-started India’s innings in the second Test in the company of Rahul after Dhawan was ruled out with an hairline fracture. But Vijay and Rahul’s association lasted mere 4 and 3 runs respectively.

In third Test where Pujara came in for Vijay after the latter aggravated his injury, the opening stand lasted a mere two balls when Rahul was bowled. Batting coach Sanjay Bangar accepted it to be an area of concern but said he was delighted with the way the team has overcome a poor start.

“The good thing about that is that there are partnerships happening at the top of the order,” Bangar said at the post match conference following a truncated day’s play. “You definitely want your openers to ride over that tough phase of playing that new Kookaburra ball that does a lot in the first 15 overs. That has been a challenge. Obviously having a different opener in every Test also plays a role.

“No opening batsmen, because of the injury, is batting there consistently. Had a particular batsmen been batting, like Rahul has batted for the third straight match. He got a hundred in the second match. The more innings you get, the better position you are in to judge that. With a fresh opener in every Test, it becomes a bit difficult to judge.”

While the musical chairs for the openers is being necessitated due to a spate of injuries, there has been some shuffling in the middle order as well. Skipper Virat Kohli and team director Ravi Shastri have stressed the move is to create a very flexible batting line-up and Bangar too toed the same line. “I think all the batsmen are willing to bat at any position which is a big plus of this team. They are willing to take up the challenge, they are willing to come out of their comfort zone and really challenge their capabilities and test their skills in challenging conditions. I think once the decision is made by that particular batsman then it becomes quite easy.

“After that it becomes just a matter of time of getting used to initial part of your innings and then its batting as usual. Even this game it would be as if Pujara was walking in the first over had he not opened the innings. Its just a matter of mindset and more the willingness of the players, the easier my job becomes.”

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