At times, Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara might feel like they are stuck in a time loop because by now, every morning for them will be laced with the grim familiarity of an uncertain future.
Pujara and Rahane failed to deliver once again in India’s first innings of the second Test against South Africa. While the former managed a mere three runs, the latter was dismissed for a golden duck.
India’s middle-order has struggled in Test cricket right through 2021, and Rahane and Pujara’s poor form has been symptomatic of the team’s woes. Both Pujara and Rahane have certainly looked ill at ease in the middle of late. Their footwork has been tentative and they have proved easy meat for the opposition bowlers.
Rahane has scored 479 runs in 13 Tests at an average of 20.82, with two fifties and a best of 67. Pujara has done slightly better, having scored 702 runs in 14 Tests at an average of 28.08. The India No. 3 has registered six half-centuries, with a best of 91.
While skipper Virat Kohli’s absence is a huge blow for India, fans would have been hoping that senior players like Cheteshwar Pujara (3) and Ajinkya Rahane (0) would step it up. Unfortunately, that did not happen as both players were dismissed off consecutive balls.
Both players have been woefully out of form with the bat in Tests over the last two years, and the poor show by Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane continued in 2022 as the duo were dismissed cheaply in the ongoing Test between India and South Africa in Johannesburg. Pujara, who stayed in the middle for 33 deliveries, was dismissed on 3 by Duanne Oliver and the pacer followed it up by removing Ajinkya Rahane on golden duck in the consecutive ball.
Pujara Rahane: Time runs out
The scary part for both batters is that this is not a sudden drop but rather it has been a slow and steady decline.
Over the last two years, Rahane has averaged 24.55 at No 5 (his usual batting position) with no centuries and only two fifties to his name. He is lauded for scoring the tough runs but if he is just going to score the twenties and thirties, surely there are better alternatives around.
At what point does the long rope start getting tangled up in itself? Rahane’s batting simply doesn’t inspire any confidence in anyone else other than the opposition bowlers. The team is still doing well but he doesn’t look like he is the long-term solution that the team needs.
The reason why Pujara is more likely to be dropped on the bench is that Rahane played a crucial inning in the first innings that helped the visitors post a healthy 327-run total on the board.
When Rahul Dravid was at the fag end of his career, it was actually Pujara who came in and did well at that No. 3 spot, put pressure on him to eventually take his spot… Obviously, that circle comes around…Just like that, Dravid will have to make a couple of harsh decisions and if that means dropping one or both of them.
So, if the management keeps the emotion aside and thinks rationally there is no way we would be seeing Pujara and Rahane find a place in the Playing XI for the second Test especially with Shreyas Iyer waiting in the line for his turn.
The clamours for Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara’s removal from India’s Playing XI are growing louder, and come January 11 at Newlands in Cape Town, it could be curtains for the duo!