India made three changes in the side for the Boxing Day Test match in Melbourne against Australia. KL Rahul and Murali Vijay, the Indian openers who struggled in Adelaide and Perth, were dropped and in came Rohit Sharma. Virat Kohli handed a debut to Mayank Agarwal while Umesh Yadav was replaced by Ravindra Jadeja. India chose to bat and during the toss, Kohli said that Agarwal would open the batting with Hanuma Vihari. Both displayed solid technique and ensured India did not suffer a jolt in the first session as they stitched a 40-run stand for the opening wicket. While Agarwal looked in great touch, Vihari fell for 8 thanks to a sharp bouncer from Australia pacer Pat Cummins. However, the Agarwal-Vihari duo achieved a slice of history during their partnership.
Vihari and Agarwal became the third Indian duo who opened for the first time in a Test. Janardan Navle and Naoomal Jeoomal opened the batting for India in the very first Test against England in Lord’s in 1932 while the second was Vijay Merchant and Dattaram Hindlekar also against England in Lord’s in 1936 which was India’s fifth Test overall. After 527 Tests, Vihari and Agarwal became the third.
Navle played just two Tests and was the batsman who faced India’s first-ever delivery in Tests which was bowled by Bill Bowes. Jeoomal played three Tests. Hindlekar managed to feature in just four Tests but Merchant became one of the greatest players for India, averaging 47 in Tests and 71 in First-Class cricket. In 10 Tests spread over 18 years, he hit three centuries and three fifties while in domestic cricket, he amassed over 13000 runs.
Agarwal is looking in great shape to get to his maiden fifty and it would be a great start to his Test career. After scoring over 2000 runs in the domestic season last year and being ignored in the West Indies series, Agarwal has a chance of redemption and making a big name for himself on the grandest stage.
The four-match series is currently tied 1-1. India won the first Test in Adelaide by 31 runs but Australia bounced back in the Perth Test with a 146-run win. Virat Kohli’s Indian cricket team will be aiming to win a Test in Melbourne for the first time in 37 years.