Who should replace Iyer for the Australia Tests? Gill, SKY, or someone else?
@ovshake42 5 minute read
With Shreyas Iyer ruled out of the first Test match against Australia, from February 9 in Nagpur, India have several options to choose from for that No.5 slot.
The National Cricket Academy have insisted Iyer spent more time to recover from his swollen lower back. The reluctance of the BCCI medical stuff to hurry him back into action ruled him out of the first Test match.
With Rishabh Pant ruled out of the entire series and Jasprit Bumrah a certain non-starter, India will now take field without three of their first choice XI.
From seven Test matches, Iyer has scored 624 runs at 56.72. He made a hundred on Test debut, and is yet to be dismissed for a score under 14 in his 12 innings to date. He averages 68.67 against spin, and will be missed in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. However, India have several options to choose from for the No.5 slot.
One of Shubman Gill and KL Rahul
Gill made his maiden Test hundred on India’s tour of Bangladesh earlier this winter. It has been barely a month in 2023, and he already has four hundreds – three in ODIs including a double, one in T20Is.
While he averages only 26.30 at home, he has faced the Australians in their den before, in his debut series in 2020/21. He made 259 runs on that tour, at 51.80. He is in form. He knows the attack.
There is also the case of vice-captain Rahul, who had a quiet 2022 (137 runs at 17.12) after an excellent 2021 (461 at 46.10, playing all his matches in England or South Africa). In his only home series against Australia, in 2016/17, Rahul made 393 runs at 65.50 with six fifties in seven innings.
Ahead of the tour, with Iyer still in contention, the team management would probably have had a difficult decision to make while choosing Rohit Sharma’s opening partner. With Iyer ruled out, one of them can drop to No.5 – the way Mayank Agarwal had in Brisbane on the 2020/21 tour.
Both men are almost certain to play. It is a question of who opens and who bats down the order.
Eyebrows were raised when ‘SKY’ was drafted into the Test squad, presumably based on his T20I form. Transitions like these are not unheard of, but they typically happen through ODIs – and this is where he averages 28.86 across 18 innings. The decision to pick Yadav (first-class average of 44.75) ahead of domestic stalwarts like Hanuma Vihari (53.82) and Sarfaraz Khan (79.65) had seemed odd.
But now that he is there, India may opt for a specialist middle-order bat ahead of a makeshift one – though some may argue that Rohit is a makeshift opener himself.
Kishan was probably picked ahead of Upendra Yadav based on his performances in shorter formats. It was probably on the lines after he slammed 210 in an ODI on the Bangladesh tour. Unfortunately, he is yet to aggregate a hundred runs across nine international innings this year, and has failed to reach double figures five times.
Being a left-hander might have bolstered his case, but then, Australia may not even play a spinner who would bring the ball into him. Even if they do, the attack will be dependent on off-spinner Nathan Lyon and the fast bowlers.
A fractured hand has ruled Vihari out of contention, but Sarfaraz is around. His recent numbers – 556 runs at 92.67 in this year’s Ranji Trophy – indicate his form. The other competitors – Agarwal (686 runs at 68.60), Abhimanyu Easwaran (710 at 88.75), and Dhruv Shorey (859 at 95.44) are mostly openers.