Domain Tests v India
Kohli backs India's struggling openers
Skipper addresses the form of under-pressure pair Murali Vijay and KL Rahul
19 December 2018, 09:29 AM AEST
India skipper Virat Kohli has backed Murali Vijay and KL Rahul to overcome their Australian form struggles after teenage prodigy Prithvi Shaw was ruled out for the series.
Opening duo Vijay and Rahul both fell cheaply as Australia claimed a 146-run victory in the second Domain Test in Perth to level the series 1-1.
The pair are averaging 12.25 and 12.00 for the series respectively, placing huge pressure on Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane to fill the void.
India had been hoping to have gun opener Shaw, who missed the first two Tests with an ankle injury, available for the Boxing Day Test.
Already dubbed the 'next Sachin Tendulkar', Shaw scored a century on debut and took man-of-the-series honours against West Indies last October.
But the 19-year-old has failed to recover from the left ankle injury he sustained in a tour match last month, forcing India to add uncapped opener Mayank Agarwal to their squad.
Agarwal averages almost 50 in first-class cricket but Kohli had backed his established openers to bounce back in Melbourne.
"You just have to keep backing them and telling them that they belong and they're good enough to perform," Kohli said.
"It's just telling them this is what we require as a team from the openers and this is the role that needs to be fulfilled.
"I'm sure those guys have figured out what's gone wrong in this game especially and they're very keen to correct it themselves."
India have also recalled allrounder Hardik Pandya for the third and fourth Tests in Melbourne and Sydney.
Pandya, who averages 31 with bat and ball from 11 Tests, suffered a back injury in September and his ensuing absence has proven a major selection headache for India.
The 25-year-old, who was playing a first-class fixture in Mumbai this week, claimed 5-81 in the first innings then scored 73 for Baroda in his comeback match.
The Indian Express has reported Pandya is likely to take Hanuma Vihari's spot in the side.
Pandya recently declared he was fully fit and ready to play at the MCG if required.
The allrounder played a key role during India's only win on their five-Test tour of England earlier this year, scoring an unbeaten 52 in their second innings and snaring six wickets in the Trent Bridge clash.
Domain Test Series v India
Dec 6-10: India won by 31 runs
Dec 14-18: Australia win by 146 runs
Dec 26-30: Third Test, MCG
Jan 3-7: Fourth Test, SCG
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c, wk), Josh Hazlewood (vc), Mitch Marsh (vc), Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch, Peter Handscomb, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc
India squad: Virat Kohli (c), Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Prithvi Shaw, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant (wk), Parthiv Patel (wk), Ravi Ashwin, Ravi Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar