March 23, 2023

India vs South Africa: Will Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane tackle headwinds? | Cricket News – Times of India

The thumb rule in cricket is: Play the guy in form. There are exceptions, though, like Cheteshwar Pujara (92 Tests, 6589 runs, 18 x 100s, 31 x 50s, average 44.82; overseas: 45 Tests, 2890 runs, 8 x 100s, 12 x 50s, average 36.58) and Ajinkya Rahane (79 Tests, 4975 runs, 12 x 100s, 24 x 50s, average 39.30; overseas: 47 Tests, 3151 runs, 8 x 100s, 16 x 50s, average 41.46).
They have played many battling knocks. Pujara is eight Tests away from playing 100 matches. Will he make the magic number?
Both Pujara and Rahane have molded their game around strong fundamentals and developed technique over time, but after going through the grind of Test cricket for many years, they have fallen on bad times. They have faced a lot of flak for some poor outings in Australia and England and in the home series against England.

The previous team management of skipper Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri supported them to the hilt, acknowledging their good showing with the bat in difficult situations. But in their present form, how long can the team keep supporting them?
Rahane’s numbers are not impressive, save for his match-winning century at the MCG. His average was 38.86 in 2020, but it has declined to 19.57 this year.
What about Pujara? He scored a Test ton last in January 2019 and has compiled runs at an average of 27 since the start of last year.
WV Raman, former player and coach, told TOI: “They can draw inspiration from (former India captain and current BCCI president) Sourav Ganguly, who made a successful comeback on a tough South African tour in 2006. This tour might rejuvenate them. Both have played critical knocks for India. They should tell themselves that it’s just a matter of a good phase of three-four hours.”

Raman feels both Rahane and Pujara will bank on their vast experience to bail them out.
“The lessons learnt over all these years of playing international cricket will come in handy.”
He also feels Pujara and Rahane have more of a ‘psychological barrier’ to conquer.
“It’s not about technique. It’s about how free they are as far as mental space is concerned. They should not allow too many things to run in their mind. They know how to prepare for a game and what it takes to succeed,” explained Raman.

Pravin Amre, the first Indian batter to score a century against South Africa — in the Durban Test of 1992, feels for the two. Not because he has been a long-time coach and mentor of Rahane, but because he himself has gone through the vicissitudes of Test cricket.
Amre believes that past performances must be recognised and experience cannot be substituted easily. He feels that both Rahane and Pujara must be told that they are needed. Amre wants the selectors to back the veterans.

“They are not rookies. They are in the team because they have delivered. So, it’s important to back them, rather than doubt their abilities. They have done well for India when the chips were down,” asserts Amre.
Explaining why Rahane should still be backed to overcome the slump, Amre says: “One cannot score a century in every Test. 40s and 50s and partnerships are important for the team as well. And he has done that.” Amre has similar faith in the abilities of Pujara too.

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