Top-order struggle a big concern, says Shastri

Top-order struggle a big concern, says Shastri

Indian openers have had a torrid time in the ongoing Australian series, managing just one half-century partnership. Both M Vijay and K L Rahul have looked out of their depths while another first-choice opener Prithvi Shaw has gone back home after failing to recover from an ankle injury.

Head Coach Ravi Shastri admitted openers’ continued struggle was a “big concern” and emphasised that the top order had to take “responsibility and accountability.”

“It is a big concern, that’s obvious,” he noted. “Responsibility and accountability have to be taken by the top order and I am sure they have got the experience and exposure over the last few years to get out there and deliver,” he hoped.

While Vijay has made 49 runs at an average of 12.25 in this series, Rahul has mustered just 48 runs at 12. On Sunday, as India went through their paces after a three-day break here at the MCG, all three openers – Vijay, Rahul and Mayank Agarwal – batted together in adjacent ‘nets’; one hoping to get a break and the other two hoping to retain their place in the XI for the Boxing Day Test here.

While Shastri wasn’t committal about Agarwal playing, he had heaped high praise on him. “He is a good young player. He has got loads of runs for India ‘A’, he has come through the ranks.

When you look at his domestic record, his performances are as good as anyone. So that’s a call we will have to take.”

R Ashwin remains an injury concern ahead of the third Test with the off-spinner opting not to bowl during India’s practice. Rohit Sharma, Shastri said, is shaping up well but he will be monitored.

“Ashwin, we will evaluate over the next 48 hours, Rohit Sharma looks good and he has made a very good improvement, but we will see how he pulls up tomorrow. He looks good as of today.”

The coach also didn’t commit himself about Hardik Pandya’s inclusion for the third Test. In a desperate bid for balance, India recalled the pace-bowling all-rounder as soon as he established his fitness by striking 73 and taking seven wickets in the first and only match he played for Baroda this season against Mumbai.

“It gives you that (all-rounder) option but he has not played much first-class cricket, he has just played one game after injury so we have to be very careful before we actually decide whether he plays or not,” he offered.

Shastri was asked if he was surprised by the coverage of Ravindra Jadeja-Ishant Sharma on-field spat. “I am never surprised,” he said. “I love coverage, bring it on, as simple as that. In many ways it can (bring the team together) and let’s hope it does.”

He also termed Kohli’s behaviour “fantastic.”

“What is wrong with his behaviour? Of course, you can question but as far as we are concerned (he is an) absolute gentleman.”