Focus on Shaw, Agarwal in Windies warm-up game

There is a buzz in the cricketing grapevine that Shaw will make his Test debut against the West Indies at Rajkot and that Agarwal too will make the Test squad cut.

The national selectors have already given sufficient hints that Shaw — who led the India U-19 team to World Cup glory in New Zealand, and was among runs for India A — is ready for the big break.   -  AP

 

Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal grabbed most of the attention at the outer net practice facility of the Reliance Stadium here on Friday. In recent times, the terrific twosome, raised in the modern cricketing cultures of Mumbai and Bangalore have been in serious business of making runs across all formats, caught the attention of the fans, and the discerning. They have also impressed the national selectors who are perhaps inclined to look at options before the four-Test series in Australia. Quite clearly the failure of two of the three openers on the tour of England has demanded a change.

On the eve of the two-day warm-up game against the West Indies led by Jason Holder, the BCCI President’s XI skipper Karun Nair, India’s newest middle-order batsman Hanuma Vihari, Shreyas Iyer and Ankit Bawne made the most of the only practice session, facing fast bowlers Basil Thampi, Avesh Khan, K. Vignesh and Ishan Porel, but the focus was on Shaw and Agarwal, with the Karnataka right-hander padding up a second time in soaring temperature.

The Indian batsmen will be up against fast bowlers Shannon Gabriel, Holder and Kemar Roach.

New openers

There is a buzz in the cricketing grapevine that Shaw will make his Test debut against the West Indies at Rajkot and that Agarwal too will make the Test squad cut. The hunt for a new opener began during the tour of England when the selectors dropped Murali Vijay after his double duck in the second Test at Lord’s. Vijay has been in good nick for Essex in the English County championship, but few are willing to predict his return to the Indian team.

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Vijay’s left-hander opening partner, Shikhar Dhawan, did not have a good run in the four Tests he played in England; he scored 162 runs at a lacklustre average of 20.25. K.L.Rahul too was far from the spectacular but he has regained the trust of the team management and the selectors making 37 and 149 in the last Test at the Oval.

The national selectors have already given sufficient hints that Shaw — who led the India U-19 team to World Cup glory in New Zealand, and was among runs for India A — is ready for the big break. The Mumbai opener was included in the squad for the last two Tests against England.

Agarwal has piled up runs (704 runs in the 2016-17 season and 1,171 runs in 2017-18 season and 375 runs in three A Test matches against South Africa this season); and he would be fancying his chances.

Captain speaks

When asked if Shaw and Agarwal are a bit anxious, Nair said: “Not at all. They have been playing so well over the last one year. They are looking forward to another match. Everyone in the team is pretty excited. The batsmen have an opportunity to play against quality West Indian fast bowlers and our bowlers would compete with the West Indies batsmen as well. It’s a learning curve for all of us,’’ he said.

Former India U-19 wicketkeeper Smit Patel has replaced the injured Ishan Kishan.

Squads

BCCI President's XI: Karun Nair (c) Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw, Hanuma Vihari, Shreyas Iyer, Ankit Bawne, Smit Patel, Jalaj Saxena, Saurabh Kumar, Basil Thampi, Avesh Khan, K. Vignesh, Ishan Porel

West Indies: Jason Holder (c), Sunil Ambris, Devendra Bishoo, Kraigg Brathwaite, Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Jahmar Hamilton, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Sherman Lewis, Keemo Paul, Kieran Powell, Kemar Roach, Jomel Warrican