With the Boxing Day Test match against South Africa just three days away, India’s think tank and captain Virat Kohli have a lot on their plate as they need to decide whom to select as middle-order batsman to add stability in the absence of Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill and Ravindra Jadeja.
Rohit, who is out with a hamstring injury, will be replaced by vice-captain KL Rahul to open the innings alongside Mayank Agarwal, who just scored a match-winning hundred against New Zealand on a turning track at the Wankhede Stadium. It’s India’s middle order that has struggled of late with the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane struggling big time for form and have been short of runs. Even Kohli has not been the same for the last 12 Test matches and has not scored a hundred for two years.
India have Shreyas Iyer, who scored a century on his debut, and Hanuma Vihari, who was playing for India A in South Africa and scored three half-centuries at critical times. Also Vihari’s away record is better — he made a battling half-century in his debut game against England, scored 93 and 111 against a good West Indies attack and most importantly saved India in a Test match at Sydney on one leg, grinding out the Aussie bowlers and batting for 161 balls to rescue India.
He has been the crisis man for Team India, even though he has played just 12 Test matches, 11 of which have been abroad in countries such as England, Australia, New Zealand and West Indies. His average during this time — 34.11 — is better than Cheteshwar Pujara and Kohli. It’s time Team India realise his worth and give him enough opportunities — not only on foreign pitches but also in Indian conditions as he has got the right temperament for Test cricket.
Now that Rahane is no longer vice-captain, there is every possibility Vihari will finally be rewarded for the hard work he has put in for the Indian team in the last two years.