India tour of South Africa: One last lifeline for Pujara, Rahane and Ishant?

India ended the New Zealand Test series with a thumping victory – a distinctive performance in home conditions that we have become accustomed to seeing – with spinners having fun as the batsmen raced through a helpless train of ignorant batsmen, eventually leading to a massive But it resulted in margin of victory. that India Managing such a solid performance despite the absence of several first-choice players was a testament to their bench strength, but the consistent poor performance of the experienced trio of Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Ishant Sharma also means that we are already going for the last time. Would have seen Time all three have stepped into the field together.

While the team deserves to enjoy a rare break before basking in the glory of a series win over world champions New Zealand and returning to the grind, the Indian selectors will be busy brainstorming as they chart the future course of Indian cricket. With the next generation of players proving their credentials and underperforming stars, the time for the passing of the baton seems near.

For almost a decade now, the Indian middle order has been governed by the gritty pairing of Pujara and Rahane. Overall, he has scored 11,384 runs in 171 Tests with 30 centuries. His presence has been reassuring, especially in overseas conditions when, oftentimes, the top-order quickly gave way, meaning he had to step in more often than oust the team.

However, in the last one year or so, their performance has seen a significant drop. Pujara has played 42 innings without scoring a century and Rahane’s last century came in December 2020, and averages 24.39 in his last 16 Tests.

Shreyas Iyer has made a remarkable entry in Test cricket – a century and a half-century in the first two innings – while batting in the middle order. Mayank Agarwal has come back with a lot of runs on the difficult pitch of Mumbai. Shubman Gill has shown that he is top class and the Indian team management is keen to use him in the middle order after Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul return to the Test squad and regain their position as designated openers.

Among bowlers, Ishant has long established himself as an activist in Test cricket. But the failure to take wickets regularly and the emergence of Mohammad Siraj means that the veteran’s days are numbered as an India player as well.

So, will the selectors drop the ax on the trio or give them one last lifeline for the South Africa tour? Considering the wealth of options that India has at its disposal, a jumbo squad should travel to the African nation as it may have been in the times of COVID. However, this still won’t guarantee them a place in the playing XI, which now has a close fight for almost every spot.

For the New Zealand Test, the BCCI has rested regular Rohit, Jasprit Bumrah, Rishabh Pant and Mohammed Shami from both the matches. captain Virat Kohli Returned for the second Test while Rahul missed an injury.

Rohit, Bumrah, Pant, Shami and Rahul (if fit) have to vacate if they go into the eleven earth places. It is unlikely that Gill, Agarwal or Iyer will be pushed to the bench given their current forms. So, the logical step seems to be to penalize the weak performers.

During an interaction with the media on Monday, Kohli revealed that for South Africa to face tough competition, there is a need to take a collective decision regarding the composition of the team. He, however, backed the struggling Rahane.

The Test win in Mumbai was achieved without either Rahane or Ishant, both of whom were ruled out due to various injuries. Pujara, however, played a solid innings in the first innings and managed to hold on to his position.

But will Rahane and Ishant be given another chance or will they be given a respectable exit. Time will tell.

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