aIf only two batsmen of the new generation would have considered Indian coach Rahul Dravid as their hero and had the desire to bat like him, then you would definitely name Ajikya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara. These two batsmen may not even come close to the success of Dravid in Indian cricket, but in the delicate moments in which Rahane and Pujara expect the most from a coach, then that person is seen standing with them. But, how long this will be possible, is a very important question.
After all, Ajinkya Rahane did not get a chance to play a Test match at his home ground, Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. So far Rahane has played 79 Test matches in his career, but it can be called a strange coincidence that he did not get a chance to play a single match in Mumbai. But, with the kind of struggle Rahane is going through, it seems that his dream of playing a Test match in Mumbai may now remain an unfulfilled dream, as India will have to tour South Africa in the next one year. After that only a two-Test series against Sri Lanka is to be played in February-March 2022. In 2016, he could not play due to injury in the last moments and this time also the team management has argued for not including him in the playing XI due to injury.
After all, why would Dravid take Rahane on a tour of Africa?
But, where and how can this thing be hidden that in the last few years, Rahane’s bat is losing its identity. This year Rahane’s Test average is less than 20, in the home series against England, he averaged less than 20 (18) in 6 innings. The 33-year-old Rahane was always considered special for scoring runs in India and despite his poor record, he continued to get opportunities, it was because of his exceptional record on foreign pitches.
In 2013, his first overseas tour i.e. South Africa had such a start that after this Rahane played 17 consecutive Tests on foreign pitches only. And what a lot to play. Apart from scoring memorable centuries in Australia, England, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, Rahane also came very close to scoring centuries in South Africa and Bangladesh. This has been the reason that despite all the criticism, coach Rahul Dravid wants to take him on the South Africa tour.
Rahane did not get a chance to play Test in India again.
If Rahane’s record on foreign soil was as simple as that of India, then his career would not even see the face of 50 Tests. Among the 40 Indian batsmen who have averaged more than 35 on Indian pitches, Rahane is at number 39. The astonishing figures are enough to say that Rahane should never be looked down upon by his game in India.
The good thing is that not every coach and captain has overlooked Rahane ‘s strength abroad when he saw this shortcoming in the past . But, it has now been decided that Rahane will not get a chance to play another Test match in India again, if he shows a tremendous game on the African tour.
Pujara’s story is also somewhat similar to Rahane’s!
Like Rahane, Pujara has also been considered a reliable player in Test cricket in the new generation. But, while Rahane built his reputation on foreign pitches, Pujara always kept his average above 50 on Indian pitches. Due to this, when Pujara was seen struggling abroad, his supporters would defend him by pleading for a better average due to his excellent domestic record.
During the historic Test series win in Australia for the first time, Rahane scored so many runs that he could never have imagined in his dreams. And the wonders of that series put an end to the questions raised on foreign soil in Pujara’s career forever. But, if Pujara’s Test average in 2020 is close to 20, then this year it is close to 30.
For a batsman who neither plays in white ball cricket nor appears in any match in the IPL, Test cricket, which is his only identity of existence, gives a chance to the critics to see him battling there. In such a situation, for the 33-year-old Pujara, who seems to be moving towards his 100th Test, now every match is proving to be a big challenge.
Joining the 100 Test Club should remain an unfulfilled dream.
If he plays all three matches in South Africa, he will play 95 Tests and against Sri Lanka, then 97 in both Tests, but Rahane’s journey for the subsequent 3 matches can prove to be the biggest problem of his career. Because after this India’s Test match will be for only 1 match in England. To complete the last match of this year’s 5-match series.
In such a situation, he might reach 98 in some way, but during this time if he does not find the old Pujara, then just like Rahane’s dream of playing Test in Mumbai can remain incomplete forever, in the same way Pujara’s A big ambition of Test career i.e. joining the club of 100 Tests may also remain an unfulfilled dream.
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