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Have Pujara And Rahane Done Enough To Stay in the Indian Test Team?

Before the start of the second Test between South Africa and India, all the talks were around India’s veteran middle-order batters Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, and whether this would be the last match in what has been a successful Test career for both Pujara and Rahane. The first innings went horrendously bad for the duo as Pujara added just 3 runs while Rahane got his career’s first golden duck.

The second innings was when their experience took over and it showed in the way the counter attacked the South African attack on what seemed like a tough track to bat on. Both got half-centuries and put together a stand of 111 runs. Looking back at the partnership, it was key for India to reach that total of 266 in their final innings to set up a wonderful game of Test cricket. Even though India went on to lose the game, the contributions from Pujara and Rahane were key in setting up that match. So the question that now arises is whether Pujara and Rahane have done enough to keep their place in the Indian Test XI?

KL Rahul, India’s stand-in captain for the second Test, in the post-match interview mentioned that the team believes that Pujara and Rahane are India’s best middle-order batters in Test cricket. The duo has been under the pump for a year or so but their experience shows when the team needs them the most. Pujara also has mentioned on plenty of occasions that the team management has the utmost faith in the duo and are backing them to come good in the future.

But former India player, Sanjay Majrekar believes that Pujara and Rahane owed more runs to the team. Talking to Espncricinfo, Majrekar said “You have to look at the innings of Pujara and Rahane slightly differently because these are guys who owed runs and they got fifties which is great, back in form, good enough to keep places in the side. But guys with that kind of experience, just like Dean Elgar, could they not have gone on to get a bigger score? An 80 or a 90 or a 100 because that’s what they owed the Indian team and then the target would have been beyond the reach of the South Africans.”

It seems certain that the duo would keep their place in the XI for the decider in Cape Town and someone like Hanuma Vihari who looked good in the previous match may have to make way for Virat Kohli to comeback. Vihari has had a stop-start career in Test cricket, he has been seen as an overseas specialist and doesn’t get opportunities to score big in home matches. Vihari was excluded from the Test squad that was picked for the home series against New Zealand, rather he was sent on the India-A tour of South Africa to prepare for the upcoming away series. He got an opportunity in the second Test and did a reasonably decent job batting at number five but again would have to make way for another batter.

Shreyas Iyer who was used in the home series against New Zealand got a century on debut, so he is another batter waiting in the wings. This problem of the lack of runs by Pujara and Rahane needs to be addressed immediately. Irrespective of the result in the upcoming third Test, the team management needs to come out with clear communication. These mixed signals of removing Rahane from the vice-captaincy but him being picked over men in form in the XI is confusing for all squad members and the fans.

Similarly with Pujara, if the team believes he is the best man to do the job then he needs to be backed publicly and the new kids on the block need to be embedded in the squad in different roles.

Read: How Bangla Tigers Managed to Upset the World Test Champions?

 

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