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The Curious Case of Pujara-Rahane: Has Their Time Come to an End

January 24-28, 2012 was the last time when India played without both Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane in the playing XI of a Test match.

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In any batting line up 3rd, 4th and 5th positions are regarded as one of the most vital batting positions, especially in the longest format of the sport; They are considered to be the spine of a batting line up. So, the most skilled and talented batters of any team play in these spots undoubtedly.

From 2014 these spots became permanent for Pujara, Kohli and Rahane respectively. There is no doubt that each of them proved themselves on several occasions and gained their place permanently. But things haven’t gone smoothly in the recent past. Let’s discuss the most discussed issue of the team for the last few months.

Numbers are not too much satisfactory:

Cheteshwar Pujara and his below graph:

Now let’s see the batting records of both the players in last 4 years.

In 2017, Pujara was in very good form. He scored 1140 runs in the whole year in tests with an average of 67.05 hitting 4-centuries and 5-half centuries in that year. 2018 was also decent for him. He accumulated 837 runs with an average of 38.04. In 2019, he played less games compared to previous two years. But his average of 46 was pretty good.

Things started getting bad from 2020. He only played 8 innings in that year and mostly because of the stop the world received due to Covid-19. His total score was 163 and average 20.37. The following year, Pujara got a lot of chances. In 26 innings he amassed only 702 runs. His average (28.08) was also quite bad compared to his skills and technique. Since 2020, he hasn’t hit any century and hit 7 half centuries only in Test Cricket.

Curious fall of Rahane:

On the other hand, in 2017 Rahane scored 554 runs at an average of 34.63. Next year, he bagged 644 runs averaging 30.67. In these two years he had just one century with 8-half centuries to his name. From the perspective of average 2019 was the best year of Rahane. His 642 runs came with an average of 71.33. 2020 was also decently good. He scored runs with the average being 38.86. But Rahane’s form in 2021 was extremely poor. He averaged only 20.83.

Year 2021: When Indian Cricket Directed their Magnum Opus in Test Format

The Covid-year made a halt:

From the statistics, we can notice that things were going right till 2019. But things worsened from 2020. In that year due to Covid pandemic scheduled matches were postponed. Players were not exposed to international games. After a 100, class players carry their form & carry the burden of out of form players matches much in the whole year. And the effect of this could be seen in their form.

In 2021, when international matches started once again, they could not perform. Since 2020, Pujara didn’t score a century and Rahane scored only one century. They were getting out in various ways. A lot of weak areas of them were exposed. And gradually they became liabilities for the team.

Cricket fans didn’t want them to get as many chances as they were getting. But the positive thing was that they got relentless support from the captain and management. They were given enough chances. But they could not capitalize the chances.

Carrying the form has been a new problem:

In that period, they did play some knocks but those came irregularly e.g., Rahane hit a magnificent century in Melbourne and led his team to win the Boxing Day test. But after that his scores were 22,4,37,24,1 and 0. As Sanjay Manjrekar said in this regard, After a 100, class players carry their form & carry the burden of players out of form.” Rahane should have carried a good form. However, the historic victory of India in that Border-Gavaskar Trophy overshadowed these facts.

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In next two tours of England touring India and vice versa, Rahane scored only two half centuries. Except that he had not played any innings that might catch our attention.

Almost same goes for Pujara. Before that South Africa series some of Pujara’s innings consist of the following numbers. 0, 47, 0, 22, 26, 61, 4, 91, 1, 45. He played some good innings still he looked vulnerable in most of the occasions.

Whenever their careers were at stake, they would play a good innings and then they would continue playing poorly.

Probable Technical Faults:

There are many technical issues that both of them faced in the last few years. Pujara is very late on the balls. Sometimes one of his feet remains in the air which results in failing to transfer his body weight and unbalanced Pujara gets out.

The problem with Rahane is that he has a bad foot work. Sometimes he tries to play the balls early, sometimes late. He does not have a proper foot work which locks him in such a position that he falls prey to the bowlers. The Mumbaikar is a good striker of the ball and he can play aggressive brand of cricket. But throwing away wickets is not the thing to be entertained.

Moreover, the amount of peer pressure both them have faced is also responsible for their downfall.

Success is also a habit. Once one starts doing bad often loses confidence and plays a game that is not up to their level. Same happened to them.

One of the major problems of Rahane is that he plays spin badly, which is very unlikely for a subcontinent batter. Subcontinent batters are usually strong in that area given the conditions they grow up playing. But Jinks could not improve his gameplay against spin.

Expected Solution and Replacement for Future:

As the new squad between India and Sri Lanka had been announced, both of them had been left out; which is going to be one of the rarest cases.

Managements are surely looking for replacements. Given the importance of the positions where the play, authorities should start looking beyond them. India’s selection committee chairman, Chetan Sharma, has advised Pujara and Rahane to play Ranji Trophy and prove their talent there. Once they do well there, they may be picked in the squad later. In the first match of Ranji Rahane hit a century while Pujara missed the mark by 9-runs in the second innings of Saurashtra.

In the subcontinent the presence of them may not affect India much. But in overseas condition the experience of Pujara and Rahane can still prove to be vital at times.

Otherwise, India should go for young talents of next generation. Gill might be good replacement of Pujara. And Hanuma Vihari or Shreyas can take the place of Rahane. A lot of young talents like Yash Dhull should do well later if not now.

But, at 34 & 33, It might not be the closed doors for Pujara & Rahane; Or is it given how tough it will be to return in a strong Indian side!!

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