It appears that is not the case anymore. Indian legend Sunil Gavaskar on Friday said that Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane have been subjected to needless criticism despite them having an ordinary run lately. Why just the two of them, even skipper Virat Kohli seems to be in a rut, despite scoring a battling 42 in the first innings. But maybe because he is the skipper, Kohli can be afforded a larger rope.
If you see the numbers that the three titans of Indian cricket in the last decade or so have aggregated this year, they make for ordinary reading.
Cheteshwar Pujara has scored 389 and averages 27.8 in 15 innings. Virat Kohli’s 10 innings have produced only 271 runs at an average of 27.1. Ajinkya Rahane, who one thought would build on that hundred in Melbourne, has logged 269 runs in 14 innings, averaging 19.21. If you are in the Indian lineup and are batting at 3, 4, 5, surely you can’t average those numbers for that long and not expect to get dropped.
Worryingly, there has been a sickening pattern to their dismissals too. Rahane and Kohli have been out nicking balls on and around the fifth stump, while Pujara has played either inside the line of the ball or outside it to miss it and be out bowled or lbw.
“Nobody else has scored runs apart from the openers, but questions have always been asked about these two players (Rahane and Pujara). A lot of the noise and debate around their spot is artificially manufactured,” Gavaskar stressed, angrily.
He even inferred that because Pujara and Rahane are low-profile players, their heads will be on the chopping block faster. “They are not going to take their shirt off and create a scene (if they are dropped),” Gavaskar said while speaking on Sony Sports Network.
The legendary opener, who has in the past questioned the role and input of the support staff in improving players’ technical deficiencies, said, “If Rahane does not score, there is cause for concern, but that cause for concern has to be regarding his technical abilities. With Pujara too; the way he has been out playing down the wrong line, being beaten by the outswinger, nothing has changed. Who is the one to take care of it? Not just Pujara or Rahane. There’s a staff there. If you are getting out in the same manner, there is something wrong not just with your technique, but also guys who are supposed to help you,” Gavaskar added.
With players like Suryakumar Yadav, Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw sitting on the sidelines, one wonders how long will it be before the riot act is read to the struggling players.