With KL Rahul making the most of his chance with a well compiled 158 against West Indies in the second Test at Kingston, the Indian selectors will be left with a very uncomfortable question once Murali Vijay is deemed fit for return.

Since India’s series against Sri Lanka where Cheteshwar Pujara famously delivered a series-defining performance , they have played only five Tests (considering Test matches where both teams have completed at least one innings).

Following is a list of the highest impact Indian batsmen in these five Tests ( Batting Impact is expressed on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 representing the highest impact batsman. All other batsmen are scaled relative to him):

Batsman Matches Batting Impact Average Failure Rate (in %)
Virat Kohli 5 100 55.50 20
Murali Vijay 4 77 27 50
Cheteshwar Pujara 5 60 33 60
R Ashwin 5 60 36.16 60
Ravindra Jadeja 3 60 21.80 33
Ajinkya Rahane 5 59 66 60
Shikhar Dhawan 5 57 27 40

Note: Only Tests with two completed innings included.

Virat Kohli, the captain, and the highest impact batsman in this phase, is a certainty.

Murali Vijay has also had a good run and he is the highest New Ball Impact batsman in the team. While his average (over the past four Tests) may seem unimpressive, he scored a majority of his runs in matches where other batsmen had a hard time (case in point, his knocks in the first and third Tests against South Africa). Vijay should, therefore, undoubtedly slot in as opener upon return.

For reasons unknown, the axe always seems to hover over Cheteshwar Pujara. Even though he has failed to convert his starts into big scores in the last five Tests, he has played a significant part in India’s Test fortunes since his debut. In fact, since 2011, Pujara has been India’s highest impact Test batsman (min: 15 Tests). With India slated to have a long home season, he should definitely not be a casualty now given his stellar record at home.

Since the Test series in Sri Lanka, Shikhar Dhawan has also been guilty of not converting starts. He has been the lowest impact amongst all specialist batsmen. Even his overall record in Tests – where he has the highest failure rate (min: 15 Tests) amongst all specialist Indian batsmen (since his debut) – makes him an uncertainty.

Pujara-724x1024
Cheteshwar Pujara: India’s highest impact batsman in Tests since 2011.

Ajinkya Rahane’s batting position is such that he doesn’t get chances when the top-order clicks. Likewise, he is the one under pressure when top-order fails. Not surprisingly, then, Rahane has the second-highest Pressure Impact (after Kohli) since the Test series against Sri Lanka. Even though his average is bumped up majorly by his twin hundreds against South Africa and by staying unbeaten in two of his innings, he did fail comprehensively in three of the five Tests. He should retain his place, especially after his unbeaten 108 at Kingston.

To give a broader perspective, here are all the Indian batsmen lined up according to their career Batting Impact ( Batting Impact is expressed on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 representing the highest impact batsman. All other batsmen are scaled relative to him):

Batsman Matches Batting Impact  

Average

 

SDs

Failure Rate (in %)
Cheteshwar Pujara 33 100 46.83 2 48
Virat Kohli 42 78 46.25 0 45
Murali Vijay 37 78 40.56 1 49
Shikhar Dhawan 20 70 41.73 0 55
Ajinkya Rahane 23 57 47.27 0 48
Lokesh Rahul 6 53 37.63 0 50

Note:
1) SDs- Series-defining performances
2) Only Tests with two completed innings included.

Clearly, Pujara is miles ahead despite his indifferent showing with the bat overseas. His exploits at home, meanwhile, are unparalleled.

Dhawan might seem very close to Kohli and Vijay but it is important to note that both Kohli and Vijay had mediocre starts to their respective Test careers which brings their overall impact down. In the last 18 months, however, both Kohli and Vijay have been at the top of their games and are certain picks. With a failure rate of 55% in his career (and 50% in home Tests), Dhawan should be under the pump.

V_Kohli_BW
Virat Kohli: India’s most consistent batsman in Tests since 2013.

While it might be a little surprising to see Rahane feature towards the end of the list, it stems from the fact that a lot of his runs have come in drawn Tests. In eight Tests that India won since his debut, Rahane scored at an average of 39. In the eight they drew, he averaged 76. All said, it does take time to develop a batsman for the number six position and Rahane deserves that opportunity to settle as one.

With a failure rate of 60%, KL Rahul wasn’t particularly high impact in the five Tests prior to the Antigua Test. One of his centuries came in a high scoring draw while the other resulted in an Indian win. He failed comprehensively in the remaining three Tests. That said however, the way Rahul has batted over the last two months and his recent knock at Antigua makes him hard to ignore.

If Rahul is to be part of the playing XI given his recent form, it has to be at Dhawan’s expense (as opener) and not Pujara’s (number three).

 

Soham Sarkhel