India’s veteran wicket-keeper batter Dinesh Karthik reckons either Cheteshwar Pujara or Ajinkya Rahane will need to be dropped in the third Test match against South Africa when Virat Kohli will return back to the final XI.
Pujara and Rahane have been in horrid form in the recent past and they haven’t been able to deliver the goods for the team.
Pujara could only score three runs in the first innings of the second Test match against the Proteas at the Wanderers, Johannesburg on Monday and continued his poor form. Duanne Olivier got some extra bounce from the surface and the ball ballooned to Temba Bavuma after taking the splice of the bat.
Rahane, on the other hand, played a loose shot on the first ball he faced and was dismissed for a golden duck for the first time in his Test career. Pujara’s Test average is now below 45 while Rahane’s average has gone down below 39. Both of these players have been given a long rope by the team management but they haven’t been able to grab their chances.
Pujara had scored his last Test century back in January 2019 when he scored 193 runs against Australia in Sydney.
Speaking to Cricbuzz after the day’s play, Karthik said: “At No. 3 in inarguably the world’s best cricket team, to find a spot there for three years and not score a hundred – he (Pujara) will know he’s got a long, long rope. To a large extent they are playing because of the potential they have, and the performances they have shown, and obviously, they are senior statesmen [in the team] as well. But the long rope they have been given is slowly burning out and you are coming to the end of it. I am very, very sure that they are both aware of it. Also, we have got to see the potential of the players at the back, they have done as well. Now if Virat Kohli returns, you get a feeling that one of the two has to give way.”
Karthik reckons the team’s head coach Rahul Dravid will need to have a few hard conversations with Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara.
“When Rahul Dravid was at the fag end of his career, it was actually Pujara who came in and did well at that No. 3 spot, put pressure on him to eventually take his spot… Obviously, that circle comes around… I do think Rahul Dravid will have to make a couple of harsh decisions and if that means dropping one or both of them, he’ll be open to it because he knows that they have been given a long rope before… You don’t want to set the ground ablaze by making the big decisions right at the outset so I think he’s waiting and trying to assess what he can contribute to their careers and if it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be.”
There is no doubt that the pressure is piling on Pujara and Rahane to deliver the goods. Both of them are under scrutiny and they will need to turn the tables in the second innings to hold their place in the team.
Meanwhile, South Africa was 35-1 and they trail India by 167 runs after the visitors were bundled out for 202.