Murali Vijay should be India’s first-choice opener for the upcoming tours to South Africa and England

A good selection headache is always welcome, for you know that you have bench-strength to choose from. However, when injuries and other factors come into play, they create the impression if fate is playing the card of equitable distribution. That is exactly the spot India’s openers find themselves in. Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul have shuffled in the top order since late 2014 and somehow, it has worked well for India with each delivering whenever handed the opportunity. Not to forget, Abhinav Mukund who scored 81 in his last Test appearance. Then there also was a Parthiv Patel, who filled in when the team needed him, and did a good job.

Vijay though seemed to be almost indispensable, ever since he cemented his spot at the top in early 2013. Since then, he has given India solid starts on numerous occasions, particularly overseas and has also formed a good partnership with the No. 3 Cheteshwar Pujara. However, an injury kept him out of the tour to Sri Lanka, where Dhawan roared back into form in the whites. Rahul has been very consistent this year as well. Thus, Vijay had to make way for them during the first home Test this season. It was a little surprising considering his consistency over the years.

Ahead of the Test match against Bangladesh earlier this year, the Indian team management faced an interesting choice. Test cricket’s latest triple-centurion Karun Nair and Ajinkya Rahane were in the race for a spot in the batting line-up. The management went for the tried and tested Rahane, who had put in the hard yards over the years and maintained consistency. While Nair had proved his mettle, he still had to bide his time. One may have expected the same logic to apply when Vijay returned but Dhawan’s form and his attacking instinct was too hard to resist.

With India keeping one eye on the South Africa tour, they would know that Vijay is vital to their cause there. The batsman had one innings of note during the previous visit there, a hard-fought 97 at Durban against a Dale Steyn-led attack breathing fire. Later, he had good tours to England and Australia, where he showcased his solidity in alien conditions. Considering his technique and experience, he will be an important part of the Indian team’s plans in the upcoming overseas tours.

It will be tricky to pick the combination for those Tests because you have a Rahul who has good technique and has delivered the results, and the attacking Dhawan, who has found his rhythm again. That is the main choice India will have to make as they must stick to Vijay as the senior man to guide the Indian cause at the top. His latest century comes as a timely boost to his case before those big sojourns!

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