After an extended period of limited-overs cricket, where they have for long struggled to find a stable No.4, India now have a middle-order dilemma to contend with in Test cricket, too – but this one is because they are spoilt for choice.
Virat Kohli is yet to decide who between Rohit Sharma and Hanuma Vihari slots in at No.6 for the first Test against West Indies that begins in Antigua on Thursday, 22 August.
Both Rohit and Vihari fared decently during the Australia tour in 2018-19, but neither was exceptional. While Rohit scored a fifty in four innings, Vihari stood out for his gritty 66-ball 8, a knock that had earned him the praise of his skipper, in the third Test at the MCG, where he opened alongside Mayank Agarwal.
But with KL Rahul now returning to the Test fold and having the management's faith, Vihari seems likely to be relegated to No.6, making it a straight shoot-out between him and Rohit for a place in the XI.
“Obviously, it’s always a positive, from a team perspective, that there are more than one option for the same spot," Kohli said at the pre-match press conference. "Both of them have done really well – Rohit with that 63 in Melbourne and Vihari whenever he has been asked to do something. Some of his knocks have gone unsung, like the 8 in Melbourne. A lot of people fail to understand the significance of it. They will wonder what’s it about those eight runs. But it was efforts like these that helped us win that all-important Test, and then the series."
Both batsmen come into the series bringing significant form. Rohit is still fresh off a strong ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019 campaign, where he made a record five hundreds, while Vihari performed well for the India A side in the Caribbean, with scores of 55 and 118* in the third four-day game. Both of them also did well in the tour game earlier this week, when Rohit scored 68 in the first innings and Vihari registered scores of 37 and 64.
It’s always a positive, from a team perspective, that there are more than one option for the same spot.
While both are solid players, Vihari has a slight advantage in the fact that he can provide the team with an extra bowling option. "Vihari gives you a few overs with the ball as well. He's a solid player," Kohli said. "Rohit, we've been seeing it for years, so it's about who provides the best balance in terms of the XI we want to choose."
The skipper also said that India haven't yet decided if they want an extra spinner in their XI. "We haven't had a look at the wicket," he said. "It's more or less a choice between three quicks and a spinner, or two quicks and two spinners.
"Last time England played here, the wicket had a bit of variable bounce, so all those factors come into play. We're flexible at the moment about what the combination should be."
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