Australia vs India: Can Shaw, Agarwal crack the opening riddle?

Indian openers have often struggled to build a partnership in Australia. The 141-run opening stand between Aakash Chopra and Virender Sehwag in 2003-04 remains the best.

Virender Sehwag and Aakash Chopra wait as play is called off due to rain on the third day of the first Test in Brisbane, on December 6, 2003. The Delhi duo had a productive tour of Australia in 2003-04. - V. V. KRISHNAN

In the past two decades, on most occasions, the Indian openers have struggled to build a partnership in Australia. There are individual hundreds and fifties, but no collective effort since the Aakash Chopra-Virender Sehwag heroics in 2003-04. The 141-run opening stand between the duo in Melbourne remains the best.

There is no doubt about the quality in the Indian batting line-up, but it remains to be seen if Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw can turn the tide.

So how does one survive the new ball? Shaw and Agarwal — both attacking players — need to wait for the loose deliveries and at least bat out the first 15 overs.

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Chopra, in an interview with this publication, had stressed on an individual process that will be different for every cricketer. “Everyone has a different formula, a different way of succeeding. I don’t think one-sided theories and strategies would work. You have got to stick to what works for you,” he said.

“Murali Vijay scored a century (144) at the Gabba. He completely did it his way. He knew where his off-stump was. He left everything that was short and all his runs against pace came off the front foot.”

The first Test begins with the day-night Test in Adelaide on Thursday, where the challenge will be tougher. The pink ball retains its shine for close to 20 overs and the behaviour starts changing with cooler temperatures under the lights.

Top five opening performances of Indians in Australia

Top 5 opening performances of Indians in Australia

141: Aakash Chopra-Virender Sehwag in Melbourne, 2003-04

123: Aakash Chopra-Virender Sehwag in Sydney, 2003-04

66: Aakash Chopra-Virender Sehwag in Adelaide, 2003-04

63: K. L. Rahul-M. Vijay in Adelaide, 2018-19

61: Aakash Chopra-Virender Sehwag in Brisbane, 2003-04

Though India beat Australia in the 2018-19 tour, the opening partnerships did not reach the three-figure mark despite Hanuma Vihari’s resistance to score 8 off 66 balls in the Boxing Day Test.

Besides the 63-run stand between K. L. Rahul and Vijay in Adelaide, Vihari and Agarwal had survived 19 overs to add 40 runs in Melbourne. They continued the drill in the second essay, adding 28 in 13 overs.

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Former India batsman Wasim Jaffer, who was part of the 2007-08 tour, said India team’s success will depend on how they bat. “It’s Mayank and Prithvi at the moment and it depends how these guys fare. But then, if Rohit Sharma comes back, it depends how they play then and if they can score.

“When Virat Kohli returns, Rohit batting in the middle-order is also a possibility,” he told Sportstar on the eve of the day-night Test.