India vs Australia, Border Gavaskar Trophy 2022-23: KL Rahul & Rohit Sharma have blunted Pat Cummins well as openers since BGT 2016-17
With every passing day, the craze for the upcoming Border Gavaskar Trophy (BGT) 2022-23 between hosts India and Australia in the form of a four-match Test series is increasing immensely. India are the current holders of this prestigious trophy.
In the ongoing World Test Championship (WTC) 2021-2023, Australia are placed at the top spot with 75.56 percentage of points (PCT), while hosts India are second on the table thanks to their PCT of 58.93. The fact that India need to secure a victory in this series in order to earn a ticket for the WTC final, has given more weight to this mouthwatering clash.
If India want to post good scores on the board to put pressure on Australia, then their openers need to lay down a great platform. It is noteworthy that KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill have all blunted the Mitchell Starc challenge quite well since 2017, and the former two have been decent against Pat Cummins as well. But Shubman Gill has struggled a bit against Cummins.
Let’s scan the numbers of different India openers in Border Gavaskar Trophy (BGT) since the 2016-17 event, against Australia’s pacers.
KL Rahul has struggled a bit against Josh Hazlewood
India opener KL Rahul had a horrid 2022 with just 137 runs in 8 innings at an average of 17.12 and he ended the year with just 57 runs at an average of 14.25 in the two-match Test series against Bangladesh. But in the past, he has played some gritty knocks against Australia.
Since 2017, KL Rahul as a Test opener has recorded 450 runs in seven games against Australia at an average of 40.90 and strike rate of 56.25 with six half-centuries. When Australia toured India last time for a four-match Test series in 2016-17, Rahul was the third-highest run-getter in the series with 393 runs in seven innings at an average of 65.50 and strike rate of 56.30 including six fifties. His highest Test score of 90 in that series came on a vicious Chinnaswamy track in Bengaluru during the second Test when the whole team was bundled out for just 189 in the first innings. He was really unlucky to miss out on a deserving hundred after spending 205 balls on crease for that spectacular knock.
Rahul has played well against the Australia captain and the reigning number one bowler in ICC Test bowlers’ rankings, Pat Cummins since 2017. The India opener has accumulated 71 runs in 123 balls getting out couple of times against Cummins in the given timeframe. Against Mitchell Starc, Rahul has gathered 79 runs in 142 balls with one dismissal since 2017. However, he struggles a little bit against Josh Hazlewood with the latter caging Rahul four times besides conceding 103 runs in 168 deliveries since 2017.
Rahul who has 2000+ runs in Test cricket will aim to get back to his prime touch in the upcoming Border Gavaskar Trophy 2022-23.
Rohit Sharma too struggles against Hazlewood
Current India captain and opener, Rohit Sharma has been little inconsistent in the longest format of the game because of his injuries but he needs to stand tall in the upcoming four-match Test series against Australia in the opening position.
Since 2017, Rohit has cracked 56 runs in 90 deliveries against Pat Cummins besides getting dismissed couple of times. Mitchell Starc is yet to find success against Rohit since 2017 as the latter has collected 42 runs in 64 balls against the left-arm pacer. Rohit Sharma has been really defensive against Josh Hazlewood in Tests since 2017, as he has managed just 51 runs in 132 balls against the pacer with two times of dismissals at an average of just 25.5.
In Border Gavaskar Trophy 2020-21, Rohit played just two Test matches against Australia and registered 129 runs at an average of 32.25 and strike rate of 47.77 including one fifty and a highest score of 52 that came during the second innings of the third Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) in Sydney. In both the Tests, Rohit showed his power taking on the short stuff dished out by Australia’s pacers.
With this Test series being played in India and if the authorities roll out spinning tracks, Rohit Sharma who has 3137 Test runs in 45 games, needs to bring his A game.
Shubman Gill has shown stability in his short Test career against Australia
In his short Test career, Shubman Gill has played just three Test matches against Australia during the last edition of BGT where Gill cashed in with 259 runs in six innings at an average of 51.80 and strike rate of 60.65 including couple of fighting half-centuries. His highest score of 91 in that series came during the chase in the fourth Test at the Gabba in Brisbane; this innings has already been marked as a memorable knock in India’s Test history. In a record chase of 328 runs, after losing opener Rohit Sharma early, Gill looked to stay positive taking on the Australia bowlers. He played a sensational knock of 91 runs in 146 balls with the help of eight boundaries and couple of maximums at a strike rate of 62.33 to help India retain the Border Gavaskar Trophy.
In his face-offs against Australia, Gill has struggled quite a bit against Pat Cummins scoring just 59 runs in 130 balls besides getting dismissed three times. He has nailed 51 runs in 106 balls against Josh Hazlewood who got the better of Gill once. Gill has been spectacularly brilliant against left-arm pacer, Mitchell Starc, as the former has milked 91 runs off the latter in just 94 balls without any failure including 14 boundaries and two sixes.
There have been discussions whether Gill will open the innings in the coming series but if he does, India will hope Shubman Gill, the superb young India opener who has 736 Test runs in 13 innings with four fifties and one century, displays his calibre.
Mayank Agarwal among other openers to show quality against Australia
Even though he is not in the current squad for the first two Tests of the upcoming Border Gavaskar Trophy against Australia, Mayank Agarwal has actually found good success as an opener against Australia since 2018.
In five Test matches against Australia, Agarwal has milked 273 runs at an average of 30.33 and strike rate of 48.23 including two half-centuries with a best score of 77. All these Test matches were played in Australia as Agarwal was excellent in taking on the Australia pacers but some poor knocks in recent years have forced him out of the national side.
He has been in some great touch playing in the Ranji Trophy 2022-23 and he has skippered his Karnataka side to the semi-final. But if Agarwal, who has 1488 runs in 21 Tests at an average of 41.33 and strike rate of 53.48 wants to make a return to the side, he needs to score more runs in domestic cricket.
The first of the four-match Test series will begin from February 9 at the Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) in Nagpur. The second Test will be played in Delhi from February 17-21 after which both teams will fly to Dharamsala for the third Test from March 1-5, followed by the fourth Test in Ahmedabad from March 9-13.