Time Running Out For Rahane And Pujara
Indian Test Team has had an amazing time over the last decade and this is nothing short of a fairy tale run keeping in mind its performance over the years in countries like Australia, England and South Africa. There was a great balance between the batting and bowling line-up, especially the bowling department is stronger than ever. Many a time in the recent past, India managed to come out victorious chiefly because of their superior bowling, not so much due to a terrific batting performance.
Agree that test cricket is about taking 20 wickets but as long as the bowlers compensate for the poor performance of the batters, there isn’t a problem, but when the bowling has an off day or an off 5 days, good batting performance can save the blues in managing a draw and come out unscathed.
Openers Problem Almost Solved
Though their middle-order used to be strong, India always had a problem with test openers, particularly in seaming conditions, but that seems to have resolved almost though not perfect. After the exit of Gavaskar, there wasn’t a perfect preplacement for ages but now we almost have one though collectively, cannot compare any of the Indian openers with Sunny Sir. With Rohith, Mayank and Rahul (Shubhnam Gill not out of the picture yet), India seems to have found a stable opening pair that can blunt the new ball and allow the middle order to thrive.
Kohli Is Just One Innings Away
Virat has improved a lot in terms of a test batsman, both technically and temperamentally, and we can sense that for a player of his stature, he is just one innings or one big stay at the crease away from coming back to where he was. It is almost given that he will sooner than later and that will make the top 3 almost invincible for the opposition to defeat and derail. There may be failures here and there but greater sides even had such.
Problem With The Middle Order
Now, coming to the point of discussion, Indian middle-order looks stronger on paper but when it comes to the actual performance, it seems to falter giving away all the advantages created by the openers and this has been the case consistently for the last 1 to 2 years.
Pujara rightly replaced Dravid as the wall of the Indian middle order and his career spanning over a decade is the proof of this. He is technically strong and bowlers always complained of his stubbornness at the crease and difficulty dislodging him. Playing only the longer format, he did not show any signs of lack of practice in the first part but this seems to be a problem now with his peers and adversaries playing shorter forms regularly and keeping themselves fit and match ready. His form is a big worry for India, more so because they cannot find an immediate replacement any soon as none is seen in the ranks as of now. This may be one of the reasons he is getting the longer stint without remarkable success as the management seems to have confidence in him for now. His performance over a period of time seems to be entering panic mode and the ongoing series with South Africa may be a do-or-die for him.
On the other hand, Rahane has become an enigma of sorts with glimpses of regaining form but fizzles away when everything seems to have been sorted out. His career, though not as esteemed as Pujara in the test format, is also technically very strong and maybe lacking the application part, not expected from a seasoned campaigner like him. He is becoming more of a worry as his form is not that great even in the shorter format, IPL or ODIs. His body language is also a worry. His vast experience and the knowledge he has over the game needs to be preserved but this alone cannot guarantee him a place. He needs to perform and should respond to the faith on him by the team management.
With the clock ticking very fast and the patience drying out, it has to be seen how long these two can hold their place with the youngsters like Shreyas Iyer knocking on the doors of selectors big time.