Sunday 23 January 2022
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Pujara, Rahane on borrowed time

Ashish Nehra's saying that Virat Kohli's figures are not good does not wash, as Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane do not have formats other than tests to prove themselves

Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane have together scored over 11,000 test runs and 30 test centuries, but they have hardly been in form for a very long time. The first innings of India in the ongoing Test against South Africa was another reminder of just how much the experienced duo has been struggling. While Pujara played 33 balls before falling for 3 to Duanne Olivier, Rahane stayed at the crease for a mere one delivery before falling to the Kolpak-returnee.

Granted that the Wanderers pitch is not the easiest track to on, with spongy bounce that the Proteas bowlers have used to near-perfection. You could see how they set up Pujara. But why could not Pujara or, for that matter, Rahane enhance their games to rise to the occasion?

Sirf News Analysis: Pujara, Rahane

In the absence of Virat Kohli, the difficulty to fetch runs and only five specialist batsmen, not counting wicket-keeper batsman Rishabh Pant, Pujara and Rahane had the right opportunity to showcase their value for the team. But their performances were not in sync with what the team, the fans and the management, which has been backing them heavily for a while now, really wanted. How cheaply they got out was pitiful.

It has been just about two years when, for the last time so far, Pujara scored a test century: a massive 193 versus Australia in Sydney. In 45 innings (6 tests) since then, he has been without a century, with an average of 26.86 since his last test ton.

For Rahane, the last Test century scored was in December 2020: a 112 versus Australia in Melbourne. Since then, he has played 25 innings (14 tests) without a century and has averaged 21.08.

When Sunil Gavaskar said from the commentary box that Pujara and Rahane had just one more innings perhaps to save their test careers after they walked back to the pavilion in quick succession in the first innings at the Wanderers on Monday, it was a popular opinion among cricket fans.

While Ashish Nehra has pointed out that Virat Kohli has “similar numbers”, what cannot be forgotten is that the former captain plays all three formats. His test average has suffered over the last couple of years, but he still averages over 50 across all three formats.

The last time Pujara played a one-day international was 2014 and the last time Rahane played an ODI was February 2018. Rahane has not even featured in a T20I for India since August 2016. Tests are the only format they play now, the format in which they need to excel and prove themselves. To say that they are running out of time is an understatement.

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