Will Agarwal get his break?

Mayank Agarwal. DH file photo

Ahead of the first Test against the West Indies, it was certain that India would field an uncapped opening batsman. In the two-match series -- seen as dress-rehearsal to the upcoming tour of Australia -- finding a stable top order is one of India’s prime areas of focus.

Prithvi Shaw, who pipped Mayank Agarwal to play his maiden Test, has made a strong case for himself with an attacking century (134). The Mumbai lad seems to have impressed skipper Virat Kohli. “The guy (Shaw) showed he is of a different quality. That’s why he has been pushed to the Test team. It is exciting to see from the captain’s perspective,” Kohli said at the post-match presentation ceremony after India’s huge innings and 272 runs win over the West Indies here on Saturday.

As much as it is exciting for Kohli, it remains to be seen if the Indian captain is completely clear about his plans. It’s obvious that India have begun to look beyond the tried and tested duo of Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan and Kohli has spoken in length about providing opportunities to newcomers.

However, it is debatable if the two-match series, against a below-par team which is ranked eighth in the world, is the ideal of finding the right combination for assignments that are clearly going to be far tougher.

Shaw’s century should certainly help him retain his place for the second Test in Hyderabad starting October 12. The spotlight thus shifts on Agarwal.  

Agarwal, whose marauding run in domestic cricket and ‘A’ tournaments has helped him stack up record number of runs over a year and half, will be eager to get that exposure to the demands of Test cricket. The Karnataka batsman had made a 90 against the West Indies in the two-day warm-up tie in Vadodara but Test cricket is a different ball game even if it’s the same attack. 

Third opener

If the team management is considering Agarwal as the third opener for the challenge Down Under then it is only fair that the right-hander is given an opportunity in the next game in Hyderabad.

If Agarwal warms the benches but gets picked for the Australian tour, the 27-year-old will head to the much tougher assignment with only the first-class match practice of probably two Ranji Trophy games for Karnataka.

And if the right-hander does play his maiden Test, it will be interesting to see which batsman India will leave out. Kohli is returning from a break while vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane is yet to find form. 

K L Rahul, who slammed a century in the final Test against England at The Oval last month, flopped in the first Test with a duck here. But the classy batsman is sure to travel to Australia due to his familiarity with the conditions there, a country where he made his Test debut and scored his maiden ton as well.

The Indian think tank could give a break to a senior like Cheteshwar Pujara to bring in Agarwal or they might rest Rahul to experiment a young opening combination. 

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Will Agarwal get his break?

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