When KL Rahul first burst on to the international scene, he seemed like a boom or bust sort of a player. He either scored big or nothing. However, it looked like India’s search for a reliable Test opener, especially overseas came to an end. Moreover, as Rahul grew in his international career, he became a lot more consistent as well.
In fact, the Karnataka batsman scored a string of fifties in the mega home season in 2016-17. However, once India toured away, he was found out. He failed to build on his good form in South Africa while he played five Tests before he got a ton in the last Test in England. His woes have continued in Australia and West Indies as well.
Since that 149 he scored at the Oval last year, Rahul’s highest Test score is 44. He has seriously struggled and has looked tentative every time he’s walked out to bat. Hence, with the home season starting, the 27-year-old opener might face the axe. Hence, here we look at five batsmen who can replace Rahul in Test cricket.
1. Abhimanyu Easwaran
Abhimanyu Easwaran. (Photo Source: Twitter)
Here is a player who has scored a lot of runs in first-class cricket. Abhimanyu Easwaran has been consistently getting runs in the Indian domestic circuit. It doesn’t matter which team he turns up to play for, be it Bengal, India ‘A’ or one of the Duleep Trophy sides, Easwaran just turns up and gets big scores.
The 23-year-old Bengal opener has had a couple of excellent Ranji seasons. In fact, last season, he topped the batting charts for Bengal as he averaged 95.66 while amassing 861 runs. He scored big hundreds and showed the hunger to bat long and bat big.
On the back of consistent performances for Bengal, Easwaran has constantly been in and around the India ‘A’ side. Even at that level, he’s scored a lot of runs. It was only a few months ago where he scored a fabulous double ton against Sri Lanka ‘A’. He played Duleep Trophy Final 2019 for India Red and smashed a 150+ score.
In fact, he even has a good 50-over record. He averages in excess of 50. Thus, Easwaran looks to be one of the favourites to seal Rahul’s spot if the latter is dropped.
2. Priyank Panchal
Priyank Panchal. (Photo Source: Twitter)
Priyank Panchal may not have had the best of times in the last month or so. He’s failed in three successive first-class games which is unusual as he’s been scoring a truckload of runs for Gujarat and India ‘A’ over the last few years. In fact, he has been Gujarat’s most reliable and premier batsman for the last few years.
The Gujarat opener averages almost 67 in the last four Ranji seasons. Moreover, he has been consistently getting runs for India ‘A’ as well. He has put in a string of consistent performances over the last three-four years. Hence, Panchal is very much in the reckoning.
In fact, he may well compete with Abhimanyu Easwaran for KL Rahul’s spot. Panchal has quite a bit of experience as well. He’s been playing domestic cricket for over a decade now. Thus, he may well be ahead in the race to replace KL Rahul.
3. Shubman Gill
Shubman Gill. (Photo Source: Twitter)
If there is one name that has done a lot of rounds in the Indian domestic circuit, then it has to be that of Shubman Gill. The 19-year-old Punjab batsman has been in fine form in the recent past. Moreover, his non-selection in the national side has hogged the limelight quite a bit.
Gill may have made his debut for Punjab in List ‘A’ and first-class cricket only a couple of years ago but he has already shown that he may become a future superstar. The top-order batsman has been scoring a lot of runs in domestic cricket. He has been in and around the India ‘A’ squads as well and has also done well in those ‘A’ games. In fact, it was barely a month back when he struck a magnificent 204 coming in at 14/3 in the second innings against West Indies ‘A’.
Moreover, Gill who has played just 13 games averages 74.88 in first-class cricket. He had a phenomenal Ranji season last time and was Punjab’s best batsman by a distance, despite not featuring in the entire season. Hence, Gill seems ready to take it to the biggest level as well.
4. Prithvi Shaw
Prithvi Shaw. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
It’s been a frustrating time for Prithvi Shaw in the recent past. After a dream debut against West Indies at home last year, he was in line to be India’s first-choice opener in Australia as well. However, a foot injury ruled him out. He played the entire IPL season but he has been out of action since.
A hip injury kept him out which kept him out of the Caribbean tour. Then, the doping ban arrived. Hence, he has been banned for six months and has been on the sidelines. However, with KL Rahul struggling big time, Shaw might regain his spot at the top of the order once his ban comes to an end.
The Mumbai batsman has an excellent first-class record. He might have played just 17 first-class games but averages 60.93. Moreover, he has already struck eight centuries and as many fifties in his short career.
5. Murali Vijay
Murali Vijay. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)
At one point, Murali Vijay was India’s best opener and dependable option at the top, especially overseas. However, failures on tours of South Africa and England last year saw him face the axe. Since then, he has never made it back in the national reckoning.
The last time he donned India colours was at Lord’s where he bagged a pair. However, as soon as he was dropped, Vijay signed up for County cricket and roared back into form. He scored three fifties and one hundred in five innings while accumulating 323 runs. But Vijay played just one Ranji game last season.
However, he has constantly playing white-ball cricket and has done really well. Thus, we cannot rule out the possibility of Vijay returning and replacing his old opening partner KL Rahul.
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