Rahul-Agarwal first pair from Karnataka to open in Test

Rahul-Agarwal first pair from Karnataka to open in Test

Bengaluru boys’ happy reunion at the top ends quickly

K L Rahul and Mayank Agarwal. (AFP File Photos)

For the first time in their decorated cricket history, Karnataka saw two of their finest young products open the innings for India in a Test match. K L Rahul and Mayank Agarwal walked out to the middle after India won the toss and elected to bat first in the final Test at the iconic Sydney Cricket Ground.

It was also a happy reunion of the two Bengaluru buddies who started playing together right from the under-13 level for Karnataka. That joy, however, was punctured by the early dismissal of Rahul, whose poor run on the series stretched to the fifth innings.

Karnataka have had a couple of great middle-order batsmen playing for India with distinction -- G R Viswanth and Rahul Dravid. Brijesh Patel too left his mark in 21 Tests between 1974 and 1977. Wicketkeeper-batsman Budhi Kunderan, who played for Karnataka when it was referred to as Mysore, can be called can be called a proper opener as he opened 21 times in 34 Test innings for India while averaging 41. While Dravid did open in Tests on a few occasions, Rahul was the first ever specialist opener after Kunderan from Karnataka’s stables to play the longer format while Agarwal became the second one in Melbourne when he made an impressive debut.

There have been many instances in Indian cricket’s history where two openers from the same State team have did the duty together for the country in Tests, the last pair coming from Tamil Nadu when M Vijay partnered Abhinav Mukund. The most successful pair thus far has been Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir who scored 4412 runs at the top at an average of 52.52 in 87 innings.  

Incidentally, Rahul made his debut in Melbourne four years ago as did Agarwal last month. Rahul’s defining moment of his maiden tour of Australia with the senior Indian team arrived at the SCG itself when the 26-year-old put behind his horror start at the MCG with a century. Having endured a poor patch through the series, SCG and the presence of his friend at the other end, one hoped, would bring change in his fortunes but that wasn’t to be. His innings lasted all of six balls and the partnership just nine.        

When Rahul was included on Wednesday in the final 13-member team, his linking up with his Agarwal appeared very much on the cards. And with India naming Rahul in the XI, it was time for the two Karnataka batsmen to slip back in time and recall the days when they started their careers as under-13 members of their State team.

The reunion ended on a quick, sad note with Rahul’s fall but Agarwal, who struck 76 and 42 in the Boxing Day Test, continued the good start to his international career at this level. The 27-year-old scored his second half-century (77, 112b, 7x4, 2x6) in as many Tests and just when it appeared that the century was his for the taking, he perished while playing one shot too many in the air.

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