Sri Lanka v India Tests
Rahul set to return for second Test
India suddenly flush with opening options as Rahul overcomes illness to re-join Dhawan, Mukund in Galle
29 July 2017, 11:04 AM AEST
If a lead approaching 500 runs wasn't enough, India have received a further boost midway through their first Test against Sri Lanka with opener KL Rahul seemingly on track to return for the second Test in Colombo next week.
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Rahul had been set to make his comeback from a shoulder injury in Galle this week but was ruled out two days before the match due to a fever and was hospitalised in Colombo while his teammates travelled south for the first Test.
But the 25-year-old joined his teammates at the ground on Friday morning and took part in the team's warm-up session, indicating he should be fit to play when the second Test gets underway on Thursday.
Boasting an average of 44 in Tests and having compiled six consecutive half-centuries in four Tests against Australia earlier this year, plus a quickfire half-century in a warm-up match last week, Rahul is certain to return to the side if he can prove his fitness.
Having gone into the series with a question mark hanging over the make-up of their opening pairing, India suddenly have two in-form batsman battling for one spot alongside Rahul should he return as expected next week.
Shikhar Dhawan's stunning first-innings 190 seemingly assured him a spot for the rest of the series, but Abhinav Mukund sent a reminder of his quality with a polished innings of 81 on Friday.
Mukund had been tipped to edge out Dhawan and bat alongside Rahul for the first Test given he had been included in the original squad while Dhawan was a late addition when regular opener Murali Vijay was ruled out of the series due to injury.
But Rahul's illness meant both Mukund and Dhawan played in Galle and Dhawan took his chance, blazing a record-breaking score on day one having been dropped when he was on 31.
Dhawan's stunning performance, which included 31 boundaries, unsurprisingly caught the eye of chief selector MSK Prasad.
"It was the most magnificent knock I've seen on the opening day of a Test," Prasad told Times of India.
"Shikhar has the ability to win a match in a session. When we dropped him (last year), it was because he was injured and was out of form.
"There was never any doubt about his class. He's a match-winner across formats."
While Dhawan has seemingly leap-frogged Mukund in the pecking order, the latter player said his focus on Friday was adding as many runs as possible to India's imposing 309-run first-innings lead.
"I have the opportunity to do something in this Test," Mukund said.
"I don't want to think ahead to the next Test. Being the first choice opener or second choice opener doesn't make a difference.
"When you get a chance in the middle, I want to capitalise on it. That's what I thought."