Hanuma Vihari's role as an opener is a stop-gap one and he will be given enough opportunities in his preferred middle-order spot should he fail at the top, assured chairman of selectors MSK Prasad. Vihari along with debutant Mayank Agarwal will open the innings in the Boxing Day Test against Australia after the team management finally lost patience with the out-of-form duo of KL Rahul and Murali Vijay. When asked if the new role is unfair on Vihari, who has only played two Tests so far, and doesn't regularly open in domestic first-class cricket, Prasad said:"He would be given a fair chance in the middle order should he fail to make an impression as an opener in the next two Tests."
Having watched Vihari closely when he played domestic cricket for Andhra, Prasad feels that he has the game to face the new kookaburra.
"It's fine. Technically, we feel that Vihari is well-equipped. There were times where Cheteshwar Pujara also opened when the team required. The team demands it and definitely I hope he will come out successful. Definitely it is not a long-term solution, I can tell you that," Prasad assured.
Vihari opening the innings at the MCG is a sort of deja vu for Prasad, who was given the same role during the disastrous 1999 series where he found Brett Lee's pace too hot to handle. Prasad feels that Vihari unlike him should see this chance as an opportunity.
"I always feel that it (opening against Australia in 1999) was an opportunity given to me which I didn't really live up to. We think Vihari is well-equipped to do so (than Rohit Sharma). We are convinced with his technique and definitely he is a long-term prospect for Indian Test cricket." While Mayank Agarwal has been rewarded for his consistent show at the India A level, Prasad admitted that one needs to ponder on future of Rahul and Vijay after their consistent failures over the past one year.
"We have called in Mayank Agarwal and he is in good form after that India-A series, so naturally he gets into the side. Going by current form, we all know that the current openers are not really living up to the expectation. "That is the reason why (they have both been dropped). It's really unfortunate. I think the next Test series is only seven months from now, it is definitely a point to ponder," Prasad said, when questioned about future of Rahul and Vijay.
Prasad also said that they discussed various combinations including having Parthiv Patel open the innings but found Vihari-Agarwal to be the ideal pair. "We didn't only go by form, we also looked at the combinations – what Vihari can offer, what Parthiv Patel may not offer. All those things are taken into consideration while picking the eleven," Prasad said.
When asked about his inputs for the playing eleven as selector-on-tour, Prasad replied,"Yes, I am aware (that the two openers were dropped). It's a very clearly understood situation that we pick the team, they (team think-tank) pick the playing eleven. But, having said that, the selector on call (tour) is also invited for the discussions."
(With PTI inputs)