Should India drop Pujara & Rahane? Here are the stats

Should India drop Pujara & Rahane? Here are the stats | A look at whether India should drop Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane

It was the battle of an inexperienced-yet-promising South African team against the most ruthless Indian side in recent memory. Considering the recent records of both these teams, most cricket fans and experts had predicted an Indian victory prior to the series. If not the best, this was certainly a great chance for India to fulfill their desire of finally conquering South Africa.

But, the happiness of breaking the ‘Centurion jinx’ didn’t last long, as South Africa managed to win yet another Test series against India at home. In the process, in the words of former captain Graeme Smith, the ‘final frontier’ remained firm.

The final frontier remains strong #INDvsSAF

In the aftermath of this series loss, many questions have been raised, with a major one India’s stance with respect to two of their senior-most players, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane.

Both Pujara and Rahane have been a part of some outstanding victories in India’s Test history, but their performances in some of the recent series have been nothing but underwhelming.

Worriesome stats: Pujara and Rahane in Tests since 2020

Let’s look at the numbers of these two senior batsmen since the start of 2020.

  Innings Runs Average 50s 100s
Pujara 38 973 26.29 8 0
Rahane 35 819 24.08 3 1

Both Pujara and Rahane have poor numbers in Test cricket in this period. The sample size of 35-odd innings is large enough to suggest that these two veterans are really struggling with the bat, which increases the load on others in the team.

This is particularly concerning as they are two of the senior-most players in the side.

Now let’s see their numbers at home and away venues in this period.

Although both have performed below par in both home and away venues, it is clear that Pujara has performed a little better than Rahane. Also, Pujara has taken 4.75 innings to get a 50+ score as compared to a significantly higher 8.75 for Rahane in this period.

Should India drop both Pujara and Rahane?

So, what should be the ideal strategy for India regarding these two?

I am not in favour of dropping both of them at once as India is going through a transition period. Their best batsman, Virat Kohli, currently on a century drought spanning more than two years, is also struggling a bit to get big scores.

Therefore, India needs someone experienced to hold the top order together. That’s why I want Pujara to get more chances. It is noteworthy that Pujara has faced 41.27 percent more deliveries than Rahane per innings since 2020, which indicates that the former has been much more resistant than the latter in the middle.

In other words, bowlers have found it significantly tougher to dismiss Pujara than Rahane. On the other hand, Rahane is neither scoring nor shielding the lower order from collapse. Therefore, I feel that India needs to move on and bring another player into the XI as number five. They have two fantastic options in Hanuma Vihari and Shreyas Iyer to try at number five.

As of now, Vihari seems to be ahead of Iyer in the pecking order and it would be a good decision to go with Vihari as their first-choice number five from the next series.

Vihari is technically solid and has played some really gritty knocks in tough conditions in his brief Test career so far. He has been promising, and has the ability to prevent the sort of collapses that have occurred quite often after the fall of the third or fourth wicket in recent times. In my opinion, India should slot him at five and let the stroke players like Rishabh Pant, Shardul Thakur and Ravindra Jadeja bat around him.

Should India drop Pujara & Rahane? Here are the stats | A look at whether India should drop Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane
Hanuma Vihari fought off a hamstring injury to save the 2021 SCG Test.

Both Rahane and Pujara have been two great servants of Indian cricket. However, as they say, everything has to come to an end. Currently, I don’t see any value of Ajinkya Rahane in this Test side. Also, I don’t say that Pujara’s place is secure, but he offers that resistance at the top and has done better as compared to Rahane.

So, India should persist with him at least for the next 3-4 matches. If he continues his poor run, obviously he should be shown the exit door.

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