New Delhi: Talented Punjab batsman Shubman Gill will give strength to the Indian middle order when a major reshuffle is expected to drop Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane from the Test squad. The reshuffle could come after India’s 1-2 loss against South Africa.
India’s next Test assignment is a two-match series against Sri Lanka, starting February 25 in Bengaluru and at least two middle-order slots will be up for grabs. Rohit Sharma is expected to be fit for that Test series and will take his opening slot along with KL Rahul.
Gill has played mostly as an opener, but once he recovers from his calf injury and makes himself available, it is expected that both the team management and the selectors see him as a specialist middle-order batsman. I will choose Pujara and Rahane are set to be dropped from the national team. They can save their place only if coach Rahul Dravid puts his foot down and asks the selection committee to give the out-of-form pair one last chance.
But if it happens, it is going to cause a lot of heartburn for all the deserving youngsters who may feel seriously disappointed for not getting a break at the right time in their respective careers. “I think both Pujara and Rahane will be dropped for the Sri Lanka series. Both Shreyas Iyer and Hanuma Vihari will play. Rahane, but we have to see. Still, I think there will definitely be two places against Sri Lanka,” Gavaskar was also heard saying. Though the idea of the team management may differ from that of the great former India opener.
Rahane and Pujara brought into play the same type of game over the past two years, where it was more about self-preservation and less about ticking the scoreboard (saving the second innings at Wanderers), the Indian team. Will need a free-flowing batsman in that middle order, who has the ability to take the game away in a session. Gill is the solution to the problem in terms of skill, technique, temperament. In fact, had KL Rahul opted not to miss New Zealand’s home series due to niggles and fatigue, Gill would have played in the middle order.
If Gill plays at number five, he can take advantage of situations when the ball gets old and the attack gets tired. Also, he has the ability to take on the bowlers when the other new ball is in the works. Two-way fight between Vihari-Iyer =======================
There is a tough choice for the other middle-order slot where Shreyas Iyer and Hanuma Vihari will be locked in an intense fight. Both have been impressive – Iyer gave his all in his short two-match career and Vihari gave his all in an overseas Test, which he took part in.
Vihari is a defensive player, who brings with him a sense of technical stamina and calmness which is a pre-requisite in Test cricket, especially when the conditions and the flow of the game keep changing. This makes him a good choice for No. 3 in place of Pujara but if positive intent and X-factor are considered, Iyer is definitely a better option.
However the jury is still out on one aspect of Iyer’s batting that will be closely assessed by selectors and head coach Rahul Dravid – the Mumbaikar’s ability to handle short deliveries. Any chance of a comeback for Pujara-Rahane ============================
You can never say never in Indian cricket. Both are 33 years old and will probably have to go back to the drawing board and revisit what they are doing wrong. The problem with professional cricketers is that if a technical flaw is discovered in the middle of the series, it is difficult to rectify and they work their way around that flaw. It’s kind of a temporary option but with no dedicated off-season like the older players enjoyed, perhaps a break from the national team will give them enough time to work on their flaws and come back strong.
It would have been great if Ranji Trophy was not put on hold once again as it would have given them quality match practice and the ability to rectify mistakes in live game conditions which is always the best option. If not, he could play for the English county, but to be fair, the county stint during the first leg was not very helpful for either Pujara or Rahane.
Hence, it is not looking very bright for the pair as some serious talent is waiting in the wings.