Do India persist with Pujara-Rahane?
Even if you can keep some of the batters out of the game, you can’t quite keep social media out of the game. With #Purane trending during the course of the second Test at the Wanderers, they trashed out the ‘purani’ approach with some counter-attacking shots on the start of the third day’s play. At 44/2, the pair of Pujara-Rahane, added 111 runs in just 23 overs, at 4.75 runs per over.
Their century-run partnership came at a run-rate of 5.07, off 122 deliveries, taking full advantage of some lacklustre bowling from the South African outfit. That combined with the heavy-roller, it was a high-scoring first session on day three, which had put the visitors on the top despite starting the innings with a trail.
While both of them walked back to the hut soon, the partnership really put India on the top, which begs the question: Do India persist with Pujara-Rahane. Despite the staggering partnership and the counter-attacking tactics, the answer for India’s future should remain the same, they need to look beyond the duo. But today’s innings is going to make things tough for the selectors.
A steady downward curve for Rishabh Pant
Since the heroics in Australia, Rishabh Pant’s stocks in world cricket has risen multi-fold. And that has directly or indirectly affected the expectations for the southpaw in Indian cricket. While he has shown glimpses of form, since the start of the away tour (England), his form has been a big concern for team India. Since the World Test Championship final, the left-hander has just scored one fifty, with three 30+ scores in 13 innings.
Charging against pacers in the longest format, Pant averages just 12.3. It yet again brought his downfall, this time against Kagiso Rabada. “You had two new batsmen at the crease and then you saw that shot from Rishabh Pant. Forgettable, no excuses for that shot. None of that nonsense that it’s his natural game,” uttered Sunil Gavaskar on air after Pant’s dismissal.
#QuickByte: In Tests from January 2021 till June 2021 (prior to the start of WTC final), Rishabh Pant had scored at an average of 64.4 in 10 innings. Since June 18th 2021, in 13 innings he has scored at an average of 19.2 🏏— Cricket.com (@weRcricket) January 5, 2022
Live Blog: https://t.co/7d7PcB0r8F#SAvIND #Cricket
While Pant’s shot selection was definitely terrible, his approach in the conditions were the perfect way to go, especially after the launch-pad given by Pujara-Rahane. However, the biggest worry for India would be Pant’s steady downward curve, where he has looked a shadow of the player, who made the headlines in Brisbane.
Hanuma Vihari strengthens his case for a place
While Rishabh Pant was undone by his shot selection, Hanuma Vihari constructed his innings to perfection. With just one appearance at home, Vihari’s role in the Indian team in the longest format can be considered as being an ‘away’ specialist. And at the Wanderers, he proved why exactly he was favoured in Virat Kohli’s absence here.
In the second innings, the right-hander was India’s third-highest run-scorer, with most of his batting coming alongside the bowlers. Even in the toughest of conditions for batters, Vihari showed technique and temperament to counter a tough bowling unit. In between his solid-defense, the right-hander played some swashbuckling strokes, for six boundaries.
With Rahane and Pujara not in the best of forms, perhaps, there is a real case for Vihari to walk in to the playing XI, especially with his ability to handle the pressure. He handed the pressure here with the Indian bowlers and showed excellent control over his shots throughout the innings.
Keegan Petersen is here to stay
While his dismissal might have come at the worst possible time for the Proteas, his knock surely gave him assurance of a safe future. The 28-year-old, in just four Tests, has shown South Africa what they miss: a player who shows grit, aggression and when at the crease, looks calm. It was only in 2021 when Keegan Petersen broke through the system, with over 6,019 runs, averaging 40.94, showing immense signs of succeeding at the highest level.
Prior to this Test, however, his highest score was just 19, and his average: 15.20. So, obviously the pressure was on the right-hander to come to the party. And he did at the Wanderers, first with a brilliantly constructed 62, in 118 balls, on a pitch that was demonic to the other batters. In the second innings, while he was at the crease, he showed enough promise to suggest that he is here to stay.
During the third day’s play, the right-hander had a control percentage of 88.6%, where he also was the most attacking of the Proteas players, with 25% of his shots being attacking. Yet at the same time, he has defended 43.2% of the deliveries, at a strike-rate of 63.6. While he might have walked back to the pavilion, he and his career is here to stay.