With Virat Kohli back in the 2nd Test against New Zealand, the Indian Cricket Team management got itself trapped in a tricky position. Whom to replace when Kohli takes his slot back in the playing XI. Shedding some light on the matter, India batting coach Vikram Rathour said that the call will only be taken when they arrive in Mumbai.
In the current team setup, out of the experienced players, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane are going through a lean phase. Even though coach Rathour acknowledged that the batters are going through a tough phase, he did not give a definitive answer as to who would make way for the captain.
“Of course, you want the top-order to contribute but cricketers (Pujara and Rahane) you mentioned they have played 80 (79 for Rahane) and 90 Tests (91 Test for Pujara).
“Of course, to play that many games, they must have done well for us,” Rathour tried his best to defend the 2021 Test average of below 20 by the stand-in captain (19.57) and 30.42 by his deputy.
“We understand that both of them are going through a lean phase but we understand that they have both played very, very important knocks for us in the past. We are pretty sure that they are going to come back and play important knocks for us,” Rathour said.
When asked about what kind of long rope a senior player despite a poor run, Rathour said: “I don’t think you can put a number to that. It really depends on situation the team is in and what the team is required to do.”
In the virtual conference, when he faced a more straightforward question as to who will be dropped with Kohli coming back in, the batting coach said: “Captain coming back in, that will happen in next game and we will get to that point when we reach Mumbai. The focus is on this game and there is a day to go and a game to be won. We will get to that point when we get in Mumbai.”
Meanwhile, he sidestepped a question on Shreyas Iyer, who had a dream debut. He not only scored a century on his debut but also scored a 50+ plus score in the second innings. Thus, became the first Indian batter to do so on his Test debut.
When inquired if he will be replaced, Rathour said: “Once we land in Mumbai, we will take that call, what our playing XI is going to be.”
It is going to be a tightrope walk for the Indian team management when its best batter comes back in the next game.
Even Pujara and Rahane know very well that one among the two could get the axe at least for the game although they are both expected to be selected for South Africa Tests if the tour goes on.
So what is the problem in accommodating Pujara and Rahane? Two junior batters – Shubhman Gill and Shreyas Iyer – who could’ve been easily disposable, played brilliant knocks on a tacky, if not, unplayable surface.
One thing is for sure that Mayank Agarwal (13 and 17) will have to sit out in Mumbai after his twin failures and therein lies the problem.
There are a few options by which one can still slot Pujara and Rahane for the next game. None are convincing but it’s a way to show respect to two quality players, who deserve one more chance.
Scenarios for the playing XI:
-Send Pujara to open. One is to ask Pujara to open the batting, which looks unlikely going by his confidence level at the moment.
-Send Wriddhiman Saha to open alongside Gill. Iyer will come in at No 6. This scenario only plays out if Saha is completely fit. However, if Saha doesn’t get fit then Srikar Bharat, who has a triple hundred in 1st-class cricket could be given a chance.
-Play with four bowlers and hope that Iyer chips in with at least 10 overs of leg-spin.
-Straight away drop either Pujara or Rahane.
Who makes way for captain Kohli? For fans, it is a waiting game.