Rohit tested positive for COVID-19 last week, following which his availability for the Test match is in doubt.
The Indian think tank will be hoping that Rohit recovers in time for the Test and takes his place at the top of the order. In his absence, Agarwal might end up opening the innings with Shubman Gill at Edgbaston.
Rohit’s possible unavailability will be a massive blow for Team India as KL Rahul has already been ruled out of the match due to a groin injury. Rohit and Rahul were the star performers with the bat during India’s previous visit to England. While Rohit scored 368 runs at an average of 52.57, Rahul scored 315 runs, averaging just under 40.
While Agarwal has done well for India in the past, here are three reasons why the decision to bring him in as a back-up opener is not the right one.
#1 He is not in the best of form
Agarwal has been in atrocious form of late and, as such, his confidence will be rather low. He looked completely out of sorts while leading the Punjab Kings (PBKS) during IPL 2022.
The pressure of captaincy seemed to affect his batting rather badly. In 13 matches, he scored just 196 runs at an average of 16.33 and a strike rate of 122.50.
Even in the Ranji Trophy 2022 quarter-final, he was a disappointment while representing Karnataka against Uttar Pradesh (UP).
There were high hopes from him, given his experience as a senior batter, but he ended up scoring 10 and 22 as UP stunned Karnataka and knocked them out of the competition.
These are not numbers that will give the Indian think tank a lot of confidence. In that context, it is rather surprising that India have gone back to Agarwal for the big match against England.
If given a chance, he might prove critics wrong. On current form, though, that looks like a distant possibility.
#2 Some technical deficiencies have cropped into his game
Agarwal made a fantastic Test debut for India with an impressive half-century in the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne in 2018. However, the opener is not the same player he was a few seasons back.
Some technical deficiencies have cropped into his game, perhaps due to the effect of too much IPL cricket, and bowlers have been quick to spot his weak points.
The 31-year-old has developed a much more prominent backlift than when he started playing international cricket. The same is forcing him to play at deliveries that he should ideally leave because he is not getting into the right position at the time of meeting the ball. He has been out poking at balls outside the off stump on numerous occasions in recent Tests.
Instead of handing him a comeback, it would have been better if Agarwal was given a chance to work on his deficiencies in the nets and in domestic cricket. He has the talent to succeed without a doubt and has proved himself in the past. But the current scenario does not look like an opportune time for him to make a return to the Test squad.
#3 He has been given a long enough run to prove himself
As a result of his poor technique in recent matches, Agarwal has only managed 194 runs in his last five Tests at an average of 21.55. In fact, since the second Test against New Zealand in Mumbai last year, when he scored 150 and 60, he has registered only one half-century, which came in the first innings of the Centurion Test. In his last eight Test innings, the out-of-form opener has crossed the 30-run mark only once.
Even before that, he had a poor run in Tests, during which he failed to register too many big scores. Between his 243 against Bangladesh in Indore (November 2019) and 150 versus New Zealand in Mumbai (December 2021), he endured a rather barren patch.
In 13 Test innings during this phase, he scored merely 224 runs while averaging 17.23 with only a solitary half-century, which came against New Zealand in Wellington in February 2020.
Basically, Agarwal’s struggles have not been a one-off. Barring the first year in Test cricket when he was in prime form and even notched up two double hundreds, the right-handed batter has struggled for consistency. He is still an unfinished product when it comes to Test cricket.
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