Boxing Day Test: Will Mayank Agarwal be in contention at Melbourne?

Updated: Dec 24, 2018, 22:15 IST | R Kaushik

With over 3,000 runs in last 13 months under his belt across all formats, opener Agarwal is almost certain to make Boxing Day debut v Oz

Mayank Agarwal of India 'A' celebrates his century on Day Two of the first unofficial Test v South Africa 'A' at Bangalore's Chinnaswamy Stadium last August. PIC/PTI
Mayank Agarwal of India 'A' celebrates his century on Day Two of the first unofficial Test v South Africa 'A' at Bangalore's Chinnaswamy Stadium last August. PIC/PTI

There they were, the three protagonists auditioning for two spots at the top of the tree, batting side by side at India's first net session at the MCG yesterday, ahead of Wednesday's Boxing Day Test against Australia.

Murali Vijay, 34, the veteran of 61 Test matches, but with just 49 runs in four innings this series, the one-time master of the leave now struggling to put mind over matter.

KL Rahul, 26, with 33 Test caps and, like Vijay, at the crossroads of a career that has held so much promise, but that has stumbled along from one roadblock to another.

And Mayank Agarwal, 27, on his first overseas tour with the senior national side, a mid-series replacement for the unfortunate Prithvi Shaw, who has broken down the doors to selection with a string of spectacular scores in domestic cricket and for India 'A'.

All other things being equal, two of this troika will take the field on Wednesday, with a potential Test debut very much on the cards following the underwhelming performances of incumbents Vijay and Rahul. It was at the MCG that, in 2015, Rahul made a fairly ordinary maiden Test appearance. His great mate Agarwal, with whom Rahul opened the batting for India Under-19 at the World Cup in New Zealand in 2010, could well follow suit four years on, seeking to translate his domestic heroics into international success.

Agarwal has made comfortably upwards of 3,000 runs in the last 13 months across formats, something not lost on Ravi Shastri. "He is a good young player. He has got loads of runs for India 'A', come through the ranks," the India head coach said. "When you look at his domestic record, his performances are as good as anyone. So that's a call [on his selection] we will have to take."

The call has been forced by the ease with which Australia's pace attack of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins has lopped off Vijay and Rahul time and again. "It is a big concern, that's obvious," Shastri acknowledged. "And responsibility and accountability has to be taken by the top-order. I am sure they have got the experience and exposure over the last few years to get out there and deliver." The absence through an ankle injury of Shaw has created more problems than might have been envisaged. But if Agarwal gets a go, and makes a decent fist of it, all will not have been lost either.

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