India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Wednesday said Tamil Nadu batsman Murali Vijay is likely to replace Gautam Gambhir and open the batting for India in the fourth and final Test against Australia in Nagpur.
"I think we are going in with M Vijay. Right now he will open the innings," Dhoni said, in Nagpur, on eve of the Test.
Vijay was picked for the India 'A' squad to face New Zealand 'A' in two Tests at the start of the 2008-09 season, and scored 200 runs in the four innings. He finished as the second-highest scorer in the Challenger Trophy, with 164 runs, at an average of 54.60, playing for the India Red team.
Gambhir's appeal against his one-match ban, which was imposed for elbowing Shane Watson in the drawn third Test in Delhi, was rejected by Justice Albie Sachs, the ICC's lead Appeals Commissioner, on Tuesday.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India, however, has refused to accept the decision and made known its objection on the same to the ICC.
Dhoni also made it clear that Gambhir's absence would be a big blow for the hosts, since the left-hander was in exceptional form in the series. He is the leading scorer in the series so far with a tally of 463 runs, including a double century and a century.
"It is crucial because he is the man in form, because he has scored loads of runs. A good start really matters, after that you can capitalize on that because the middle order comes into action. That really helps to get a big score on the board. As Gauti [Gambhir] is ruled out, what will happen or what would have happened if he was here," Dhoni stressed.
However, India's captain said they will back newcomer Vijay and look to give him some confidence ahead of his debut.
"We have confidence in M Vijay and, hopefully, he will give us the ideal start. The seniors will go and have a chat with him. There is no point pressuring him and making him aware of the fact that this is all what is expected of him, rather than that he can just go out and play normal cricket," Dhoni said.
He also revealed that Team India could try another option, that of getting Rahul Dravid to open the batting -- a role he performed a few times in the past. That move could rule out Vijay's debut, but, at the same time, may guarantee his Tamil Nadu team mate Subramaniam Badrinath his maiden Test cap.
"That is kind of option we have got. All these things you discuss and go with the best available option. It is a tentative thing that M Vijay will open the innings. But you can have a last-minute change of plan; it can happen. But, till now, M Vijay will open," Dhoni insisted.
India lead the Test series 1-0 after winning the second Test in Mohali.