India vs Australia series: Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agrawal need to find their feet soon
India vs Australia series: Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agrawal need to find their feet soon
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While the white-ball side has laid a decent foundation for the upcoming Tests, India's potential red-ball opening pairs have struggled to replicate that in three innings of the two warm-ups.

After bagging a duck in the first outing, Prithvi Shaw has squandered two rapid starts, this time falling prey to the incoming ball, a weakness that's such an open secret that even a second string Australia A attack managed to exploit it at the SCG.

His partner, Mayank Agarwal, managed just two in his first outing, poking tentatively at one around fifth stump to nick to first slip, a stroke likely to have your number every time in Australia. And Shubman Gill, the reserve opener, made 43 before pushing at one in the channel outside off to nick to the keeper. Sounds pretty routine if you witnessed India's overseas drubbings during the 1990s. But one needn't jog the memory that far back for comparison.

On away tours since the start of 2018, Agarwal has been India's best opener averaging a tad over 34. The next best is his Karnataka teammate he replaced at the top on the last tour of Australia after KL Rahul's miserable run saw him average 22.7 - inflated by a dead-rubber hundred in England - in 20 away innings during the same period. The numbers of the rest make for very sorry reading, with 1 fifty between five openers in 31 innings. The fact that Team India has had to chop and change so much is symptomatic of their struggle.

If numbers aren't worrying enough, there is a weakness in Shaw's batting that's his kryptonite in Australian conditions - the short-ball. Shaw was so rattled by it during the IPL that the Delhi Capitals dropped him briefly. Not dissimilar to Virender Sehwag, Shaw's back leg collapses to the leg side and that allows him to play freely through the off side. But unlike Sehwag, Shaw gets into an awkward tangle against short bowling when attempting the pull shot.

When he wasn't pulling in New Zealand early this year, he came unstuck against the bounce fending, unable to get away from the line of the ball when it followed him. He could take a cue from Sehwag, who took plenty of blows to the body when the ball was dug in short and punished anything in his half on the way to his epic 195 at the MCG in 2003-04. He could also employ the upper-cut, that has served batsmen of diminutive stature like him well on the true Australian wickets.

But Shaw and Agarwal need to find their feet soon, lest India find themselves on the backfoot early in the series.

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Free Press Journal