India’s revamped approach to Test cricket in the last few years has left in its wake a few out-of-favour batsmen; while some still harbour hopes of a recall, others may have played their last game.
For an Indian team that has been stereotyped for decades for relying on their batsmen to win Tests, the last few years have been a pleasant deviation from the trend. A team packed with matchwinning bowlers and all-rounders have often dominated proceedings in recent times, as the outfit’s outlook has shifted from its batting-heavy past.
In the process of transformation and their refreshed approach, the last few years have seen batsmen come and go, some not able to immediately convince that they belong to the Test setup, and others fading away after a respectable stint.
Below, we recall the Indian batsmen who have been tried and discarded since January 2015. The list contains all the players who are currently not in the Test squad, ordered from most likely to least likely in terms of earning a comeback to the team.
Parthiv Patel, Gautam Gambhir, Naman Ojha and Suresh Raina all played in different capacities in the period, but have announced their international retirement since.
Last Test: v Australia, December 2020
The batsman most likely on this list to earn a recall, and the latest to have been benched. Dropped at 21, Shaw could yet be the future of Indian cricket, but questions still linger over his perceived difficulties against the moving ball, the inadequate footwork, and the lack of caution early in his innings. Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill may be settled as an opening pair for now, but Shaw is likely to be the first ones to be considered once there is a vacant on offer.
Last Test: v England, September 2018
It’s highly unlikely that Dhawan will be able to force a recall into the Test side, but he still carries an outside chance, at the very least, if India ever decide to fall back on experience for the opening spot. Problems revolved around his below-par overseas record (he hit just one century outside Asia, in 2014), specifically his vulnerability against the moving ball. He still continues to be part of the limited-overs squads, which keep his chances relatively brighter than the rest on this list.
Last Test: v Australia, March 2017
Soon after his spectacular triple century grabbed headlines, Karun Nair’s Test career went into limbo: it was probably a mix of high expectations after his once-in-a-lifetime knock, and his inconsistent showings that followed it. At 29, though, he can still harbour hopes of working his way back into international cricket. In 13 first-class games in 2019/20, he averaged 48.33; while unlikely right now, a few more run-filled seasons could increase the possibilities of a slot at No.6 in the future.
Last Test: v England, August 2018
A Test career that began way back in 2004 may have wrapped up already, unless Karthik can spectacularly earn a recall to the side, having last played the format in 2018. Through the years, he’s donned multiple roles in the side, primarily as wicketkeeper and specialist opener. With younger options in the side, Karthik, 35, is unlikely to earn a Test recall, but with his high fitness levels, and his various (sometimes surprise) comebacks in the past, there remains a marginal possibility.
Last Test: v Sri Lanka, July 2017
A domestic giant with 31 first-class centuries to his name, Mukund flattered to deceive when introduced to international cricket, crossing fifty only twice in 14 innings. After an initial five-match-long stint in 2011, he was recalled to play two more Tests following a six-year hiatus, possibly to solve India’s long-standing opening woes. In his final outing, Mukund constructed a solid 81 in Sri Lanka, after which he was sidelined and not picked again. At 31, the door might not be firmly shut though, even if the possibilities of a recall remain significantly bleak.
Last Test: v Australia, December 2018
Once India’s first-choice opener, Vijay’s solidity was one of their biggest strengths on tricky overseas surfaces, where his watertight technique helped soften the effect of a swinging new ball. He could spend hours holding one end together, and piling on mammoth scores once well set. Between 2013 and 2017, Vijay averaged over 40 every calendar year except one, but a string of low scores in 2018 forced India to look at a fresh pairing for the opener’s slot. He turns 37 in a couple of months, and last played a first-class game in 2019: his 61st Test may well have been his last.