There is an inherently similar trait present in KL Rahul and Murali Vijay – India’s present Test openers. The two of them have been displaying a brand of classical opening batsmanship which is both refreshing and fascinating to watch.
Patience, elegance and grit: the two Indian openers seem to revel in these traits that are quite reminiscent of openers of the yore.
Rahul, the man of the match in the recently concluded Benaguluru Test against Australia, has been consistently good in his short career so far. Even on bouncy and uneven pitches, the 24-year-old has shown incredible grit and resolve to score his runs all over the world.
The Karnataka batsman has scored four Test centuries in his career so far and all of them have been notched up at four different countries.
Rahul got his first hundred against Australia at Sydney in the third innings of his Test career. Then he revelled on a spinning track in Colombo, posting a score of 108 in August 2015.
He recorded his first 150-plus score against West Indies in Kingston in 2016 and then topped all of his centuries with an agonizing 199 against England in Chennai last year.
Murali Vijay, meanwhile, has been a revelation in the past few years as well. 146 at Nottingham, 136 at Mumbai, 99 at Adelaide, 97 at Durban and 95 at Lord’s: these weren’t just knocks of substance from Vijay strewn across continents; they had the stamp of a true opener written all over them.
Classic Test Opening Batting Has Its Charm
One should understand that Test opening is an art, a specialist job. And while watching batsmen go all bonkers in ODIs and T20s may be gratifying at some level, Test cricket brings with it a certain sense of sanity that is much needed.
Over the years, though, some of the madness from the T20s has slowly seeped into the Test game as well. It is now almost demanded by some for Tests to be as nerve-racking and fast-paced as the other formats.
But, thankfully, Test opening at least, on some level, seems to be insulating itself from the need to be ultra-attacking all the time.
On paper, the image of a batsman leaving the ball continuously for hours at end may sound tedious. But it can be as riveting as any sport in the world.
Young Openers Lead the Revival
More than the runs that the two openers have scored, though, it is the manner in which they have approached their innings that is notable – leaving the ball judiciously, showing oodles of restraint, and grafting it out with splendid defence. It has been a hallmark of how Test opening batting should be approached.
And, it appears that very young international openers are moving towards the classical method of Test opening now.
Apart from Rahul, the likes of Matt Renshaw of Australia and Haseeb Hameed of England, too, with their traditional approach to Test opening batting, are in many ways, reviving the era of classical Test opening batsmanship.
This revival-of-sorts is a tad surprising given the way the modern age T20 batsmen think these days and, mostly, because of the way the likes of Virender Sehwag and Matthew Hayden had transformed Test opening batting at the turn of the century.
But it appears that the new-age Test openers have gone back the good old time-honoured ways to approach their job rather than going all slam-bang at it.