‘Rahul should replace Shaw as opener’, says Gavaskar

Gavaskar also wants the promising Gill to bat in the middle-order in the Melbourne Test

Legendary Indian batsman Sunil Gavaskar wants K.L. Rahul to open in place of an out-of-form Prithvi Shaw and the promising Shubman Gill to play in middle-order during the second Test against Australia at the MCG from December 26.

“First, maybe Rahul should replace Prithvi Shaw as an opener. At No. 5 or No. 6, Shubman Gill should come in. His form has been good. Things can change if we start well,” said Gavaskar on the possible changes in the line-up.

He did caution that if India doesn’t stay positive, a 4-0 drubbing might be on the cards.

Stay positive

“India have to believe that they can come back in the remainder of the Test series. If India don’t find the positivity, then a 4-0 series loss can happen. But if they have positivity, why not? It can happen (comeback),” Gavaskar said. “India should start the Melbourne Test well, it’s necessary for them to step onto the ground with a lot of positivity. Australia’s weak point is their batting,” he said.

The Indian team management will also be keenly monitoring Ravindra Jadeja’s progress. If fit, the allrounder could walk into the playing XI in place of Hanuma Vihari.

Jadeja, who suffered a concussion during the first T20I, also suffered a hamstring injury which ruled him out of the first Test.

Should Jadeja be declared fit, the axe will fall on Vihari, not because of his low scores in the Adelaide Test, but purely based on the best combination that Ajinkya Rahane and Ravi Shastri can put on the field.

“If Jadeja gets fit to bowl long spells, then there is no debate at all. Jadeja replaces Vihari on the basis of his allround skills. Also it gives us an option to play five bowlers at the MCG,” a senior BCCI source said on the condition of anonymity.

Jadeja has 1869 runs in 49 Tests at an average of 35-plus, which includes a hundred and 14 fifties. He has struck half-centuries in both England and Australia on previous tours.

On the other hand, Vihari, in his 10 Tests, has scored 576 runs with a hundred against the West Indies and four half-centuries at an average of 33- plus.

There is a school of thought that if pure batting skills are taken into account, then there is not much of a difference between “specialist Vihari” and “all-rounder Jadeja”.

With Mohammed Shami already ruled out of the series because of a wrist fracture, India might just be tempted to go in with five specialist bowlers instead of the usual four, which has been its template for years.

The Indian team had a scheduled practice session at the Adelaide Oval on Monday but due to steady rain, it had to be cancelled.

With skipper Virat Kohli set to leave for India on Tuesday and the squad travelling to Melbourne, the skipper apparently had a chat with his team on the way forward.

Rohit in quarantine

Senior batsman Rohit Sharma can start training from January 3 ahead of the Sydney Test. He is currently in quarantine in a two-room apartment in Sydney.

Cricket Australia has already flown David Warner and Sean Abbott from Sydney to Melbourne due to restrictions imposed by the New South Wales government in the wake of another surge of COVD-19 cases.

The BCCI, at the moment, can’t shift Rohit in the middle of the quarantine.

The other aspect is that CA is still confident of hosting the third Test in Sydney from January 7 as per schedule and in that case, there is no need to shift Rohit to Melbourne.

In case the situation changes and the third Test match is shifted, the BCCI will discuss with CA and take necessary steps.

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