Gill, Suryakumar in race for middle order spot as Iyer ruled out

Shubman Gill
Shubman Gill has been impressive as a Test opener in his short career. File photo: AFP/Munir Uz Zaman

New Delhi: The Indian team management could consider playing Shubman Gill in the middle order ahead of Suryakumar Yadav in the first Test against Australia after Shreyas Iyer was ruled out of the series opener due to a back injury.

Iyer failing to recover from back spasms will certainly open up one spot in the Indian batting order and the choice will be between Surya, a career middle order batter who has the X-factor and Gill, who has mostly opened for the national team in Tests.

Iyer, who has been a consistent performer in his short Test career, was India's standout batter in the 2-0 series win in Bangladesh in December.

"When New Zealand came to India in late 2021, Shubman Gill was being considered for middle order as K L Rahul was supposed to open with Mayank Agarwal. Then Rahul got injured and Gill opened. Then he got injured again. He was being considered for middle order in red ball," a BCCI source told PTI.

With skipper Rohit Sharma and vice-captain Rahul being the first choice openers in the squad, followed by Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli at No. 3 and 4 respectively, the No. 5 slot becomes very important in the Indian context as that individual is expected to play the second new ball.

In case of Gill, being a Test regular and having originally started his red-ball career as a middle order batter, certainly helps his case.

"When Rahul Dravid manned India 'A', Gill had played in middle order in a West Indies 'A' tour where he had a double hundred in one of the Tests. To be fair, he was originally a middle order batter, who was converted into an opener," a former national selector said.

In case of Surya, his dominance against spinners on wickets offering turn is a key factor.

"In case Nathan Lyon gets to turn his off breaks big, then SKY can dismantle him with his footwork. But against Cummins, Hazlewood, Gill could be a better bet," he added.

Iyer, who missed the limited overs home series against New Zealand, has not yet fully recovered from his back injury and remains at the National Cricket Academy for rehabilitation.

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