After failures of Agarwal, Shaw and Gill, Hanuma Vihari throws his hat in race of India’s Test opening slot

There has been a lot of talk surrounding the Indian opening slots for the impending two-match Test series against New Zealand starting from February 21. While India have three natural openers in Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw and Shubman Gill, all three failed in the warm-up match against New Zealand XI ahead of the Test series opener. While Shaw and Gill registered ducks, Agarwal was sent packing for one in what was a fiery spell of opening bowling by Scott Kuggeleijn. Now, Hanuma Vihari, who scored a brilliant century (101 retd. hurt) when India were in dire need, has said that he would be happy to open the innings for India in the longest format of the game if the team needs him to do so.

Interestingly, Vihari had opened the innings in the Boxing Day Test against Australia in 2018, which was also Agarwal’s debut game for India. Although, he didn’t get many runs under his belt while opening but he made sure to see off the new ball and set a platform for the middle-order batters.

Hanuma Vihari ready to open?
“Obviously, as a player, I will be prepared to bat anywhere. As of now, I have not been informed anything but if the team requests me to bat wherever in the order I’m ready to,” Vihari told reporters after the end of Day 1 of the three-day warm-up match.

When Vihari walked in to bat, India were struggling at 38/4 with the likes of Agarwal, Shaw, Gill and Ajinkya Rahane already back in the pavilion. However, Vihari and Cheteshwar Pujara stitched a 195-run stand to take India to a respectable score. Vihari, after the end of the day’s play, said that the wicket had good bounce and he took some time to settle down before playing his strokes. He further said that the grass cover was allowing the ball to do a lot and to see-off, the new ball was really important in a bid to make a comeback after losing early wickets.

The green top was tough to bat on
“The wicket had a good bounce. I feel more than what I have experienced before in New Zealand. I took some time to adjust and then once I knew what shots I have to avoid — maybe horizontal shots are something which I can avoid early on in this wicket– so I tried to avoid that,” Vihari said.

“When I went in, the wicket was doing a lot. There was a lot of grass cover on the wicket and we lost four early wickets. We were 40-4. So, the talk was to bat time and see-off the new ball as they were bowling in the great areas,” Vihari added.

With all of India’s three natural openers failing to make a mark in the first innings of the warm-up game, it would be interesting to see which opening pair the Indian team management opts for. The first test of the two-match series will be played at Basin Reserve in Wellington from February 21.