IND vs AUS: Is Mayank Agarwal in for KL Rahul for Melbourne Test?

Updated: Dec 21, 2018, 09:41 IST | Gaurav Joshi

Out-of-form opener KL could make way for Agarwal in the Boxing Day Test against Australia

India's KL Rahul walks back after being dismissed for a duck by Australia's Mitchell Starc in Perth on Monday. Pic/PTI
India's KL Rahul walks back after being dismissed for a duck by Australia's Mitchell Starc in Perth on Monday. Pic/PTI

Mayank Agarwal and Hardik Pandya arrived here yesterday as Team India begin planning for the third Test against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). Players have been given rest until December 22, which means Pandya and Agarwal will have three days to stake a claim for a place in the playing XI.

Batting-friendly wicket
Early reports suggest that the pitch here is likely to be batting-friendly, meaning Hardik Pandya could come into the equation immediately. But it is Agarwal who is more of a curious case. The form of KL Rahul and Murali Vijay has been India's biggest concern ahead of the Boxing Day Test and it is this department where India need a quick fix. But will the team management be eager to throw Agarwal into the deep end and if so, who does he replace?

Agarwal has been in scintillating form in the past 18 months, scoring in excess of 2000 runs across all formats. He scored 53 in his last innings for Karnataka before being called up to replace the injured Prithvi Shaw.

Mayank Agarwal has been named in the India squad for two Tests
Mayank Agarwal has been named in the India squad for two Tests

Besides, Agarwal had scores of 65, 42 and 42 on India A's tour of New Zealand last month. If there was a right time to pick him, it would be now, but after facing Gujarat bowlers to now confront the Australian pace battery along with Nathan Lyon is a different kettle of fish. When a journalist brought up the possibility of a new opening combination, Kohli quickly clarified in Perth: "We didn't announce that we are going to have a new opening combination."

Vijay may get longer run
Vijay is expected to be given a longer rope especially after saying (post the England tour) that the constant shuffling created doubts in his mind. Vijay looked at his best during the second innings in Perth until he attempted an ambitious drive off spinner Lyon.

It is Rahul's case that could prompt the team management to try Agarwal. Watching Rahul in the lead up to Perth, it is clear that his mind is scrambled and he is over-thinking. Rahul has just one century and one 50-plus score to his name in his last 22 innings. However, sources close to the team suggest that he is still in a good space.

Perhaps, the arrival of his close friend Agarwal can inspire Rahul to rediscover his touch else he could make way for the flamboyant Agarwal. With this current team management, anything is possible.

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