Rohit & Mayank looking good at the top, but real test awaits in NZ

Indian cricket is full of Sourav Ganguly now. The former India captain and Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) President-elect had opined that Rohit Sharma should open the batting for India in Tests also, like he so successfully does in white-ball cricket.

After sitting out of the playing XI in India’s tour of the West Indies, Rohit was finally asked to open the batting with Mayank Agarwal as India started their home stretch in the World Test Championship with a series against South Africa, which is still due its third rubber in Ranchi from Saturday.

India have handsomely won the first two to take an unassailable 2-0 lead, sitting pretty at the top of the World Test Championship points table with 200 points. Among many factors contributing to the twin wins, one major reason has been the opening pair firing in unison.

India’s opening combination has been a revolving door over the last one year as the batsmen have failed to get runs and give the team a solid start.

It started with Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay losing form and place in the team.

Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw were handed Test debuts thereafter but with Shaw getting suspended for a doping violation and KL Rahul not making the most of his chance as an opener, it remained a conundrum until Mayank had Rohit for company and could express himself with his senior partner batting in an aggressive manner.

Even Hanuma Vihari was tried as an opener as the team management kept on trying new combinations.

In the first Test at Visakhapatnam, Rohit announced his arrival as an opener in white flannels with two back-to-back hundreds (176 and 127) as Mayank notched up his maiden double ton, a classy 215 in the first innings as India won by 203 runs.

It appeared that while Rohit batted at a good strike rate of 72.13 in the first dig and 85.23 in the second, Mayank — who did not last long in the second essay — could afford to take his time and build his innings and not be pressurised of giving the team a good start alone.

In the second Test in Pune, Mayank further cemented his place as an opener with a delectable 108 as Rohit could only manage 14. India inflicted an innings and 137-run defeat on hapless South Africa who floundered with the bat and had no answer to Indian bowlers who ran amok even without pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah.

It might all be hunky-dory for the time being and the team management could be prodded into thinking that the monkey is off their back.

But the pair of Rohit and Mayank are just two Tests old. They have really not been tested at favourable home conditions and against a side who are a shadow of their former selves.

Against Bangladesh in India’s next home assignment where they play two Test in November, Rohit and Mayank are also unlikely to be tested. But whether India have found a long-term solution to their opening problems would be laid bare when India tour New Zealand early next year.