Two inclusion in India’s World cup squad in the last two weeks. First Rishabh pant and now its Mayank Agarwal. The injury saga doesn’t seem to end for the Indian cricket team in this World Cup. They started off well, won a couple of matches, showed dominance and looked like a set winning combination. Shikhar Dhawan while hitting a ton against Australia injured his left thumb. Initially, it was a three-week business but then it was found out there was a fracture in his thumb. Clearly with no hint of getting fit during the tournament he was sent back home. As a replacement Indian team asked for Rishabh Pant. Pant’s inclusion did not raise any debate. In fact, Pant was the one most fans preferred over Vijay Shankar ahead of the selection of the final team.
But now another injury in the Indian team, and another replacement! Vijay Shankar, who was taken for the number four position ahead of Ambati Rayudu has injured his toe. The chairman of selectors, MSK Prasad described Vijay Shankar as a three-dimensional cricketer while announcing the squad. This did give birth to controversies. Especially Rayudu and his followers had an issue with the same because Rayudu was probably an expected choice over Shankar, mainly due to limited-overs experience. Now since Shankar has sustained a toe injury which will take more than three weeks to recover, Indian selectors have asked for Mayank Agarwal as a replacement.
Mayank Agarwal Takes A Leap
Mayank Agarwal. The Karnataka cricketer with zero limited over experience. There were arguably a number of options to choose from. Ajinkya Rahane is one of them who is currently in England playing County for Hampshire. He has in fact scored a fifty against Somerset on the day of selection. There is obvious Ambati Rayudu with a lot more experience than Mayank has.
Mayank is called to fill the vacant opener slot. In all likelihood, KL Rahul will be back to his number four position. But Rahane and Rayudu both have also played a handful inning in the same position. In his 25 innings at the number four position, Rahane has scored 843 runs, including six half-centuries. He scored 190 runs in five matches against New Zealand at an excellent average of 63.33 and a strike rate of above 82 even though he faced a failure against Aussies. Even his overall average at the same position is 41.66 in 24 matches with one hundred and five fifties. If we talk about the opening slot, Rayudu has just played one but Rahane has experience of 34 innings as well in this case with an average of 45.09.
Why Mayank Agarwal?
The idea was to bring an in-form specialist opener who can bat at the fourth slot if required. In the last two years, Mayank has been in a brilliant form. In 31 innings, he has added 1747 runs at an average of 58.23 and maintained a strike rate of more than 100 with seven tons and six half-centuries.
Mayank has shown great resistance against world class bowlers in Australia during his test debut against the mighty Aussies. He passed with distinction and scored 76 and was in full control over Nathan Lyon. But Mayank showed his supremacy over the same Nathon Lyon.
So Mayank is a technically sound cricketer. Indian team definitely needs someone who can handle the spin on the England soil. Mayank has the experience of playing in England too. In the tri-series in England last year, Mayank scored 287 runs in four matches at an average of 71.75 and a strike rate of 105.9 for India A. So familiarity with England is another plus point for him.
With a player like Rohit Sharma at the end, India need someone who after settling down can capitalize on the good starts. If Sharma gets out easily his partner has to take that charge. The openers have to accelerate the run rate and utilize the powerplay while holding wickets. With Rahul this has been a problem as opener during this tournament. He looked in good touch while batting at number four during the warm-up. Those practice matches actually sealed his place in the playing XI ahead of Shankar or Dinesh Karthik.
As an opener, he has managed to get runs so far in most of the matches, he never looked convincing and comfortable. This might be a reason that Indian team management wants Rahul to play at number four. One and two down batters often need to play the role of anchors and KL can be excellent in that. While asking for Sharma’s replacement the management probably didn’t think of the fourth slot at all. Had they thought of the same, they might have looked for other options. The idea was to get one specialist opener only and let Rahul play at number four. Hence, the decision it seems.
Since Mayank has no limited-overs experience at the international level, this gambling can go all wrong for India. But that doesn’t really establish the fact that they took the wrong decision.