Hanuma Vihari | Sportzwiki

Hanuma Vihari

Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara. Image Credits: Twitter
Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara. Image Credits: Twitter
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Cheteshwar Pujara And Ajinkya Rahane Set To Be Demoted From Grade A In BCCI Central Contracts In 2022

Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane’s position in group A of the BCCI central contracts could be up for deliberation when the board finalizes its fresh list of contracted players for the upcoming season in a few days’ time.

Another big question is whether the BCCI top brass is in a mood to upgrade two future captaincy contenders — KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant — alongside Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, and Jasprit Bumrah in the elite A+ category.

Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)
Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)

Cheteshwar Pujara And Ajinkya Rahane Set To Be Demoted From Grade A Alongside Ishant Sharma And Hardik Pandya

The BCCI has four categories — A+, A, B, and C — which carry annual retainer ships of Rs 7 crore, Rs 5 crore, Rs 3 crore, and Rs 1 crore respectively. Normally, it is the three office-bearers, five selectors, and the national head coach, who decide retainer ships. As of now, there won’t be massive changes to the 28 names featured in the last list but there could be some serious discussions about the composition of the current groups which were in place last year.

“Obviously, Rohit, Kohli, and Bumrah being the three indispensable players across formats would be in A plus category beyond doubt. But now Rahul and Pant are slowly establishing themselves as all-format regulars, so it needs to be seen whether the duo gets a promotion or not,” a senior BCCI source said on conditions of anonymity.

Ajinkya Rahane and Ishant Sharma (PTI)
Ajinkya Rahane and Ishant Sharma (PTI)

But what could be a more debatable issue is Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane’s status after a year of consistent non-performance. Senior Indian batters Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara are most likely to be demoted in the BCCI central contracts. Their position in India’s Test team has come under intense scrutiny after their inconsistent performances with the bat for an extended period of time.

“The central contract is a performance indicator of where you stand as per your performance during the last season. If the BCCI and head coach (Rahul) Dravid decide to honour the duo and keep them in group A, then it’s a different issue but under normal circumstances, they ideally won’t feature in group A,” the source said.

Ajinkya Rahane in 2021, scored just 479 runs in 23 innings at an extremely poor average of 20.82 including just 2 50+ scores. Ajinkya Rahane, who was recently removed from the Test vice-captaincy, scored just 136 runs in the three-match Test series against South Africa at an average of 22.66.

India’s No.3 in Tests, Cheteshwar Pujara scored 124 runs in the three-match Test series against South Africa at an average of 20.66. Overall in 2021, he scored 702 runs in 26 innings at an average of 28.08 including 6 50+ scores.

The same is for pacer Ishant Sharma and all-rounder Hardik Pandya, who have both struggled due to injuries and lack of form throughout the season and the duo could feature in group B. Similarly, among the group B players of last season, only Shardul Thakur, who has had some impactful performances in Test matches, can be hopeful of promotion to group A.

Mohammed Siraj May Be Promoted From Grade C While Venkatesh Iyer May Make Maiden Cut

In current group C, Mohammed Siraj is one of the pacers who has shown tremendous improvement while Shubman Gill is one for the future along with Hanuma Vihari, who would also be expecting an upgrade. Among newcomers, the likes of all-rounder Venkatesh Iyer and pacer Harshal Patel could make their maiden cut.

Mohammed Siraj (Photo: AP)
Mohammed Siraj (Photo: AP)

According to the reports, Indian opening batsman KL Rahul, who is the stand-in ODI captain for the South Africa series, and wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant are most likely to receive a promotion in the BCCI central contracts.

India’s next Test assignment is a two-match series against Sri Lanka, starting February 25 in Bengaluru and at least two middle-order slots will be up for grabs. Rohit Sharma is expected to be fit for that Test series and will take up his opening slot alongside KL Rahul while Shubman Gill will play as a middle-order batsman and both Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara are confirmed to be axed.

Last Season’s (2021) Contract List

Grade A+: Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah

Grade A: Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Mohd. Shami, Ishant Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya

Grade B: Wriddhiman Saha, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shardul Thakur, Mayank Agarwal

Grade C: Kuldeep Yadav, Navdeep Saini, Deepak Chahar, Shubman Gill, Hanuma Vihari, Axar Patel, Shreyas Iyer, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Md. Siraj.

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Shubman Gill (Express photo: Jasbir Malhi)
Shubman Gill (Express photo: Jasbir Malhi)
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Shubman Gill Likely To Bat In Middle-order; Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara May Be Axed For Sri Lanka Tests

Shubman Gill will lend solidity to the Indian middle-order when a major reshuffle is expected to force struggling Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane out of the Test team. The reshuffle is likely to happen in the wake of India’s shock 1-2 defeat against an unfancied South Africa.

India’s next Test assignment is a two-match series against Sri Lanka, starting February 25 in Bengaluru and at least two middle-order slots will be up for grabs. Rohit Sharma is expected to be fit for that Test series and will take up his opening slot alongside KL Rahul.

Shubman Gill has scored 558 runs so far in 10 Tests averaging 32.82 in his Test career. Shubman Gill has played only 10 Tests and 3 ODIs but is touted as a future star in the making. Shubman Gill didn’t play any of the 4 Tests against hosts England. Shubman Gill was ruled out due to shin splints suffered during the World Test Championship final against New Zealand.

Shubman Gill Photo Credit: (BCCI)
Shubman Gill Photo Credit: (BCCI)

Shubman Gill May Play In Middle Order While There’s A Battle Between Shreyas Iyer And Hanuma Vihari To Take Up The Other Middle Order Slot For Sri Lanka Series

Shubman Gill has mostly played as an opener but it is expected that both team management and the selectors will pick him as a specialist middle-order batter. Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane’s exit from the national side is all but certain. They can only save their places if coach Rahul Dravid puts his foot down and asks the selection committee to give the out-of-form duo one last chance.

But if that happens, it is understandably going to cause a lot of heartburn to all the deserving youngsters, who might feel severely let-down for not getting the break at the right moment in their respective careers.

“I think both Pujara and Rahane will be dropped from the team for the Sri Lanka series. Shreyas Iyer and Hanuma Vihari will both play,” Sunil Gavaskar said while commentating on India-South Africa series.

“We’ll have to see who plays at number three. Hanuma Vihari may take Pujara’s place and Shreyas Iyer could be number five in place of Rahane, but we will have to see. Nevertheless, I think there will certainly be two spots up for grabs against Sri Lanka,” Gavaskar was also heard saying.

However, team management’s school of thought might just be divergent from the legendary former India opener. The duo of Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara brings in the same type of defensive game into play during the past two years. The Indian team will need a free-flowing batter in that middle-order, who has the ability to take the game away in one session.

In terms of skills, technique, temperament, Shubman Gill is the solution to the problem. In fact, had KL Rahul not opted out of the New Zealand home series due to niggle and fatigue, Shubman Gill would have played in the middle-order. If Shubman Gill plays at number five, he can exploit the conditions when the ball becomes old and the attack is tired. Also, he has the range to take on the bowlers when the second new ball will be in operation.

Hanuma Vihari and Shreyas Iyer. (Photo Source: Getty Images and BCCI)
Hanuma Vihari and Shreyas Iyer. (Photo Source: Getty Images and BCCI)

The trickier choice is for the other middle-order slot where Shreyas Iyer and Hanuma Vihari will be locked in an intense battle. Both batsmen have been impressive — Shreyas Iyer in his short two-Test match career and Hanuma Vihari giving his all in every one of the 12 overseas Tests he has competed in his 13 Test match career.

Hanuma Vihari is a defensive player, who brings in technical solidity and a sense of calm which is a pre-requisite in Test cricket, especially as the conditions and flow of the game keep changing. It makes him a good choice for the number three spot as Cheteshwar Pujara’s replacement but if positive intent and x-factor are considered, Shreyas Iyer is certainly a far better choice.

However, the jury is still out on one aspect of  Shreyas Iyer’s batting which the selectors as well head coach Rahul Dravid will be keenly assessing — the Mumbaikar’s ability to handle short balls.

Ajinkya Rahane And Cheteshwar Pujara Needs To Go Back To The Drawing Board And Rectify Their Defects

Ajinkya Rahane, who lost his vice-captaincy before the South Africa tour, scored 136 runs while Cheteshwar Pujara managed 124 runs. Both Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara are 33 years old and perhaps need to go back to the drawing board and revisit what they have been doing wrong.

The problem with professional cricketers is that if a technical flaw crops up in midst of a series, rectifying it is tough and they just work their way around that flaw.

It’s a kind of temporary option but with no dedicated off-seasons like what players of yesteryears enjoyed, probably a break from the national team will give them enough time to work on their flaws and come back stronger.

Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)
Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)

It would have been great had the Ranji Trophy 2022 not been put on hold once again as it would have given them quality match practice and the ability to correct mistakes in live game situations which is always the best option.

If not, they might play for English county but to be fair, county stint during the earlier phase wasn’t of great help to either of them. Therefore, it doesn’t look too bright for the duo as some serious talent is waiting in the wings.

While some changes are expected in the batting line-up, the bowling line-up might also have a few changes as Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel will be back if fit. The two Test matches against Sri Lanka will be played in Bengaluru and Mohali from February 25 and March 2, respectively. The two teams will also square off in 3 T20Is.

Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane Image Source : GETTY IMAGE
Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane Image Source : GETTY IMAGE

Both Cheteshwar Pujara And Ajinkya Rahane Will be Dropped For The Next Test Series – Sunil Gavaskar

Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar believes that India should move on from Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane as the duo had struggled in the series against South Africa as the hosts beat India by 2-1 in 3 match series.

India’s next assignment in Test cricket will be a 2-match series in February-March at home. Gavaskar said that India would be looking to replace the experienced duo in the upcoming series. Gavaskar also suggested the replacements as he felt that Iyer would be an automatic choice as the Mumbai batter scored a Test century on his test debut at Kanpur against New Zealand in November last year.

Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)
Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)

Rahane scored 136 runs in this series against South Africa while Pujara added only 124 runs

“I think that not just Ajinkya Rahane (will be out of the team). Shreyas Iyer got an opportunity in the Test series against New Zealand and he scored a well-crafted century. He scored decent runs throughout the series, so I believe there will be two vacant places in the XI,” Sunil Gavaskar said on air during the third day in the Cape Town Test.

Gavaskar also suggested a replacement for Pujara as well. The legendary batter feels that Hanuma Vihari should get a go at no.3. Notable that he played the Johannesburg Test as Virat Kohli missed out on the second Test due to an upper back spasm. Vihari scored a composed 40 in the second innings as he was left stranded.

Shreyas Iyer at the Green Park Stadium Photo: BCCI
Shreyas Iyer at the Green Park Stadium Photo: BCCI

“I think both Pujara and Rahane will be dropped from the team for the Sri Lanka series. Iyer and Vihari will both play. We’ll have to see who plays at no.3. Hanuma Vihari may take Pujara’s place and Shreyas Iyer could be no.5 in place of Rahane, but we will have to see. Nevertheless, I think there will certainly be two spots up for grabs against Sri Lanka,” he added.

Rahane scored 136 runs in 6 innings in this series while Pujara added only 124 runs in the same no. of innings. Pujara hasn’t scored a Test hundred since January 2019. In fact, the duo’s numbers are very poor in the last year or so. Since January 2021, Rahane scored 547 runs in 27 innings with an average of 20.25 which included only 3 fifties. Pujara scored 810 runs in 30 innings with an average of 27.93 which included 7 fifties.

The first test between India and Sri Lanka will be played from February 25 in Bengaluru which will be Virat Kohli’s 100th Test match.

Also, read Virat Kohli Expressed Himself On The Microphone And Was Criticised By Aakash Chopra As “Kids Are Watching The Game”

Ajinkya Rahane. (Photo Source: Getty Images)
Ajinkya Rahane. (Photo Source: Getty Images)

Hanuma Vihari Should Be Backed As Much As Ajinkya Rahane Was Backed – Gautam Gambhir

Former India opener Gautam Gambhir opined that it’s time for India team management to invest in Hanuma Vihari as Rahane failed once again in the second innings of the Cape Town Test. Things had gone from bad to worse in the series for the Mumbai batter. On the third morning of the decider, Rahane gloved a snorter to the slip off Rabada at the score of 9.

In this 3-match series, Rahane scored 136 runs in 6 innings with an average of 22.66. A fifty in the second innings at Johannesburg probably saved his place for one more test but the selectors would pick a squad for 2-match Test series against Sri Lanka in February-March, his name will be questioned surely.

Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)
Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)

Gambhir believes that India should move on from Rahane and it’s time to give same backing to Hanuma Vihari. Vihari played the Johannesburg Test match as Kohli missed out the match due to an upper back spasm. Vihari scored a solid 40 in the second innings as he was left stranded.

“Hanuma Vihari should get the first opportunity now. He should be backed as much as Ajinkya Rahane was backed, if not more than at least for 2-3 series,” Gautam Gambhir said while commentating on Star Sports.

Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane Image Source : GETTY IMAGE
Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane Image Source : GETTY IMAGE

Rahane has scored just 3 fifties since Jan 2021

Rahane has struggled for a while now. Since Jan 2021, he scored 547 runs in 27 innings with an average of 20.25 which included only 3 fifties. Pujara also has similar numbers as he scored 810 runs in 30 runs with an average of 27.93 which included 7 fifties. So both of them are the centre of attention for critics as India struggled to put a big total in the series.

KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant are the only two batters who could reach to three-figure mark for India in the series.

Meanwhile, Vihari has got chances here and there in every series, might be the one who gets consistent run now. Vihari played 13 Tests across 7 series as he played only one test match in India. So far he scored 684 runs with an average of 34.20 with one hundred and 4 fifties. He famously saved a Test match in Sydney by batting for almost 4 hours which helped India to win the series eventually.

Also read Daryll Cullinan Lashes Out At Virat Kohli For His Stump Mic Outburst

Vikram-Rathour-photo
Vikram-Rathour-photo
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Vikram Rathour Admits Ajinkya Rahane Needs To Score Big Runs In The Next Innings Of The 3rd Test

Vikram Rathour admitted that Ajinkya Rahane, the middle-order batsman needs to be scoring bigger knocks. Vikram Rathour also confirmed that a player like Ajinkya Rahane will be given one more chance than he deserves, seeing Ajinkya Rahane depart early once again in the ongoing 3rd Test against the Proteas.

Ajinkya Rahane scored a half-century in the second innings of the second Test against South Africa in a losing cause, but Ajinkya Rahane was back in the spotlight after incurring another early dismissal in the first innings of the third Test on Tuesday. Ajinkya Rahane, who was selected in the Indian playing XI for the 3rd and final Cape Town Test over Hanuma Vihari, only scored a 12-ball 9 before being dismissed by pacer Kagiso Rabada.

Ajinkya Rahane. (Photo Source: Getty Images)
Ajinkya Rahane. (Photo Source: Getty Images)

Vikram Rathour: Ajinkya Rahane Needs To Convert Starts Into Big Knock

As has been the case in press conferences, India batting coach Vikram Rathour was asked about Ajinkya Rahane’s scenario and the former didn’t shy away from giving the under-fire batter his unwavering support once again.

“No specific numbers are being discussed. He is trying his best, he is looking really, really good when he is batting in the nets and even when he is batting in the middle – he has played a couple of useful innings in this series as well. The only concern is he needs to convert one of these starts into a big one, and that’s what he is trying,” Rathour told media after the end of the first day’s play.

Vikram Rathour, Batting coach - PTI
Vikram Rathour, Batting coach – PTI

Ajinkya Rahane does have two decent knocks to his name in the series — 48 in the first Test and 58 in the second — but a batsman of his reputation is often expected to covert such good starts into big innings. Even Vikram Rathour admitted that this is one area where the former India Test vice-captain is struggling. Ajinkya Rahane has scored 135 runs so far in five innings in the series.

Ajinkya Rahane had earned praise for the half-century he scored in the second innings of the second Test as part of a crucial 111-run partnership with Cheteshwar Pujara, who has also been under similar pressure to perform.

Vikram Rathour Hopes Ajinkya Rahane Will Score Well In The Next Innings

The 52-year-old is hopeful that Ajinkya Rahane will come good in the next innings. But, as far as opportunities go, the team management is keen to give ‘one more chance’ to a player like Ajinkya Rahane than he deserves.

“We just hope as team management that he comes good in one of these innings. I can assure you that this management will want to give one extra chance than one less, so we will always err on that side, we will of course give one more opportunity than we think somebody deserves,” Rathour explained.

Virat Kohli[photo: Twitter]
Virat Kohli[photo: Twitter]
The Indian cricket team scored 223 in the first innings, with Virat Kohli’s 79 being the highest individual score. Before the end of play on Day 1, Jasprit Bumrah had succeeded in picking Proteas skipper Dean Elgar’s wicket.

South Africa will start Day 2 at 17/1, with Aiden Markram and Keshav Maharaj batting in the middle. With the series level at 1-1, India was all out for 223 in the first innings of the third Test with Proteas pacer Kagiso Rabada taking four wickets. Fit-again skipper Virat Kohli scored his highest score in 26 innings, with a gritty 201-ball 79.

South Africa 17 for 1 (Markram 8*, Maharaj 6*, Bumrah 1-0) trail India 223 (Kohli 79, Pujara 43, Rabada 4-73) by 206 runs

Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane Image Source : GETTY IMAGE
Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane Image Source : GETTY IMAGE
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Reetinder Singh Sodhi Believes It Would Be A Big Call If India Leaves Out Ajinkya Rahane To Include Now Fit Virat Kohli

Reetinder Singh Sodhi believes it would be a ‘big call’ if the Indian team leaves out senior batsman Ajinkya Rahane from their XI for the third and final Test against South Africa.

Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara, who have both struggled for form of late, scored attacking half-centuries in the second innings of the Wanderers Test against the Proteas. Hanuma Vihari, who played that Test as a replacement for Virat Kohli (ruled out for back spasms), also stood out with fighting knocks in both innings.

Reetinder Singh Sodhi. Photo Credit: Getty Images.
Reetinder Singh Sodhi. Photo Credit: Getty Images.

Reetinder Singh Sodhi: One Out Of Ajinkya Rahane Or Hanuma Vihari Will Play

In the 2nd Test, Cheteshwar Pujara scored 53 runs off 86 deliveries and stitched together a 111-run partnership for the third wicket with Ajinkya Rahane. It was also Cheteshwar Pujara’s fastest Test fifty away from home. Ajinkya Rahane played a fluent knock of 58 runs off 78 balls but India fans expect more from the duo. Ajinkya Rahane averaged a lowly 20.82 with the bat in 2021.  Cheteshwar Pujara hasn’t scored a hundred since January 2019.

Now, former Indian cricketer, Reetinder Singh Sodhi has opined that only one out of Hanuma Vihari or Ajinkya Rahane might feature in the Indian playing XI if Virat Kohli returns back for the 3rd Test. Reetinder Singh Sodhi feels that Hanuma Vihari warrants a place in the Indian playing XI for the third Test.

During a discussion, Reetinder Singh Sodhi was asked about the selection dilemma for Team India, to which he replied: “If you talk about the combination, one out of Ajinkya Rahane or Hanuma Vihari will play. It will be a big call if you don’t play Ajinkya Rahane because Hanuma Vihari has not done anything wrong; he played a very pivotal knock.”

Hanuma Vihari
Hanuma Vihari (AP Photo)

The former India all-rounder Reetinder Singh Sodhi  added that Ajinkya Rahane would be slightly fortunate to retain his place in the playing XI, explaining: “Rahane has also scored runs, where the form has been seen. So it will be a huge decision, and if Rahane plays, it could be a lifeline for him because somewhere or the other, he has been struggling. He will be able to cement his place once again if he wins the decider for the Indian team.”

Virat Kohli and Rahul Dravid opted to stick with Ajinkya Rahane ahead of Hanuma Vihari and Shreyas Iyer for the first Test against South Africa, despite the former Indian vice-captain’s indifferent recent returns. With the 33-year-old scoring a fifty in Johannesburg, it is unlikely he will be dropped now.

Former India cricketer Reetinder Singh Sodhi believes that leaving out Ajinkya Rahane would be a big call for the tourists. Reetinder Singh Sodhi further opined that if Ajinkya Rahane gets a chance, given the rough patch he is going through, it would be a ‘lifeline’ for the Mumbai batter.

Saba Karim: Biggest Question Posed Will Be Team Combination As To Whether Ajinkya Rahane Or Hanuma Vihari Will Be In Playing XI

Saba Karim was asked about Virat Kohli’s biggest challenge on his probable return as captain for the 3rd Test and he replied it’s team composition as Hanuma Vihari and Ajinkya Rahane are fighting for a middle-order berth.

He replied: “The biggest question that will be posed is the team composition. Virat will have to decide with Rahul Dravid what the XI should be. The big question is, because Virat Kohli is coming back into the XI, whether you will leave out Ajinkya Rahane or Hanuma Vihari.”

File photo of former wicketkeeper Saba Karim. – The Hindu
File photo of former wicketkeeper Saba Karim. – The Hindu

The former India selector added that a choice will also have to be made between Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav if Mohammed Siraj is unavailable.

Saba Karim observed: “Siraj is injured at the moment, so whom will you play instead of him. I feel if you look towards experience, you should definitely play Ishant Sharma. But things will be decided based on who is bowling better between Umesh and Ishant in the nets.”

Mohammed Siraj suffered a hamstring injury on Day 1 of the Johannesburg Test. Although he returned to the field and bowled a few overs, the team management is unlikely to take a risk with him for the all-important series decider. The third and final test will begin on January 11 at Cape Town as India will be eying for their maiden series win in South Africa. India’s next assignment in Tests will be a 2-match series against Sri Lanka at home in February-March.

Rahul Dravid
Rahul Dravid - K. MURALI KUMAR
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Rahul Dravid Explains Reason Behind Hanuma Vihari And Shreyas Iyer Wait To Bag Regular Test Spots

Rahul Dravid has explained why rising star Shreyas Iyer and middle-order batsman Hanuma Vihari will have to wait for receiving regular chances in the longest format of the game. Indian batters Hanuma Vihari and Shreyas Iyer are waiting in the wings at a time when senior batters Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara have embraced a rough patch in the second edition of the ICC World Test Championship.

The duo was in the fray to feature in the Indian playing XI against South Africa after skipper Virat Kohli was ruled out of the 2nd Test against hosts South Africa. While Shreyas Iyer missed out due to a stomach bug, all-rounder Hanuma Vihari made his return to the Test side in the penultimate clash of the three-match series between India and South Africa at the Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg.

Hanuma Vihari and Shreyas Iyer. (Photo Source: Getty Images and BCCI)
Hanuma Vihari and Shreyas Iyer. (Photo Source: Getty Images and BCCI)

Rahul Dravid Praises Hanuma Vihari And Shreyas Iyer

Making a case for himself in the 2nd Test match against the Proteas, Hanuma Vihari played a solid knock of 40 although his unbeaten knock went in vain as the Dean Elgar-led side defeated India in the low-scoring contest. Speaking at a press conference after India’s defeat at the hands of South Africa in the 2nd Test, head coach Rahul Dravid congratulated Hanuma Vihari for leading the fightback for the hosts in the second innings.

Rahul Dravid Photo Credit: PTI
Rahul Dravid Photo Credit: PTI

The Indian head coach then lauded Shreyas Iyer, who is yet to play for India in the ongoing three-match Test series. Shreyas Iyer had earlier made an impressive Test debut for India by slamming a century and a gritty half-century in the bilateral series against New Zealand.

“Shreyas (Iyer) obviously done that two or three Test matches ago and he has obviously done that and they have just got to take heart from the fact that whenever they are getting opportunities, they are doing well and hopefully their time would come,” Dravid said. 

Cheteshwar Pujara scored 53 runs off 86 deliveries and stitched together a 111-run partnership for the third wicket with Ajinkya Rahane. It was also Cheteshwar Pujara’s fastest Test fifty away from home. Ajinkya Rahane played a fluent knock of 58 runs off 78 balls but India fans expect more from them.

Hanuma Vihari did his bit in the second innings with an unbeaten 40 in setting India’s target of 240 for the Proteas and Rahul Dravid praised him although if Virat Kohli comes back, it could mean that Hanuma Vihari could return to the bench. Making his Test debut in 2018, Hanuma Vihari has played 13 matches in the format, 12 overseas, and scored 684 runs at an average of 34.2 with one hundred and four fifties.

Rahul Dravid: New Indian Batsmen Have To Wait For Their Time To Cement Spots In Test Squad

Citing examples of Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, and Ajinkya Rahane, coach Rahul Dravid opined that the younger crop of the Indian Test side will have to wait for regular chances till seniors are around.

“If you look at some of our guys now senior players and being sort of considered senior players, they have also had to wait for their time and also have had to score a lot of runs at the start of their careers,” Dravid said.  

Rahul Dravid, Ajinkya Rahane. (Photo: Twitter)
Rahul Dravid, Ajinkya Rahane. (Photo: Twitter)

After South Africa registered their first Test win over India at the Wanderers Stadium, Team India will play the series decider on Tuesday. The third and final Test played will be played at Newlands, Cape Town.

“So it happens (wait) as its nature of the sport. We can take a lot of heart from the manner Vihari batted in this game and that should give him a lot of confidence,” he added.

Indian head coach Rahul Dravid has explained why Hanuma Vihari and Shreyas Iyer will have to wait for regular chances in Test cricket amid the South Africa series as their more experienced competitors had also waited for their turn to cement places in the Indian Test squad.

Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane Image Source : GETTY IMAGE
Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane Image Source : GETTY IMAGE
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Harbhajan Singh Hopes India Will Persist With Ajinkya Rahane For 3rd Test And Doesn’t Make Way For Virat Kohli

Harbhajan Singh hopes Team India will persist with under-fire middle-order batsman Ajinkya Rahane for the third and final Test against South Africa. The veteran off-spinner Harbhajan Singh had pulled down curtains on his illustrious career as he announced his retirement from all forms of cricket, a few days ago.

Ajinkya Rahane was dismissed for a golden duck in India’s first innings of the Johannesburg Test. However, he bounced back in the second essay to score an enterprising half-century which helped Team India set a decent fourth-innings target for the Proteas which, however, went in vain.

Harbhajan Singh poses for a photograph ahead of a practice session © AFP
Harbhajan Singh poses for a photograph ahead of a practice session © AFP

Harbhajan Singh Hopes Ajinkya Rahane Should Be Given Another Chance In Cape Town After Fifty In 2nd Innings Of 2nd Johannesburg Test

In a video shared on his YouTube channel, Harbhajan Singh expressed hope that Ajinkya Rahane does not have to make way for Virat Kohli for the Cape Town Test against South Africa.

He said: “The good thing that happened in the Johannesburg Test was that runs came from Ajinkya Rahane’s bat in the second innings. I hope Ajinkya Rahane is given another chance in Cape Town. It should not happen that Virat Kohli comes in and Ajinkya Rahane is made to sit out.”

Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)
Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)

The former India cricketer was also happy that Cheteshwar Pujara was amongst the runs in the Johannesburg Test.

Harbhajan Singh elaborated: “I will want Rahane to score runs, to convert the fifty to a hundred, so that his confidence will be better for the upcoming series. The sword is hanging over the necks of Ajinkya Rahane and Pujara. So, it felt good that both of them scored runs and batted with responsibility.”

Cheteshwar Pujara scored 53 runs off 86 deliveries and stitched together a 111-run partnership for the third wicket with Ajinkya Rahane. It was also Cheteshwar Pujara’s fastest Test fifty away from home. Cheteshwar Pujara scored 53 while Ajinkya Rahane played a fluent knock of 58 runs off 78 balls but India expects more from them.

Kagiso Rabada accounted for the downfall of Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara at a time when India was cruising with a 111-run partnership. The 26-year old’s dream spell had changed the course of the game and had created faith for the batters to chase down a score of 240 in the fourth innings.

Harbhajan Singh Hopes The Fifties By Cheteshwar Pujara And Ajinkya Rahane Gets Converted To Hundred

While observing that both Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane have served Indian cricket for a considerable period, Harbhajan Singh highlighted that the latter in particular had a poor 2021 with the bat.

He stated: “Both of them are formidable players, it does not need to be mentioned. They have been in the Indian team for a long time and have secured a permanent place for themselves although Ajinkya did not have a good last season, he didn’t score the big runs.”

Hanuma Vihari
Hanuma Vihari— AP Photo

The recently retired off-spinner concluded by lauding Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara for delivering under intense pressure.

Harbhajan Singh observed: “I hope those fifties would have been converted to centuries but it’s good to see that both of them are gaining their confidence. I know there is a lot of pressure when a player is not in form but I think you guys have done a commendable job.”

Ajinkya Rahane averaged a lowly 20.82 with the bat in 2021. With Hanuma Vihari playing fighting knocks in both innings at the Wanderers, the team management will have a tough selection choice if Virat Kohli is fit and available for the Cape Town Test.

Virat Kohli missed out on the 2nd Test due to an upper back spasm so Hanuma Vihari got a chance. It was his first Test match since that marathon match-saving effort in Sydney in the new year’s Test match last year. In the first innings, he scored a laborious 53-ball 20 before getting caught on a short leg off Kagiso Rabada, and in the second innings, he looked quite assured with a solid knock of unbeaten 40 as he was left stranded.

Wasim Jaffer. Image Credits: Twitter
Wasim Jaffer. Image Credits: Twitter
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KL Rahul’s Captaincy For 2nd Test Surprised Wasim Jaffer Who Felt Ajinkya Rahane Should’ve Led The Side

KL Rahul led the Indian team for the first time after Virat Kohli missed the Johannesburg Test due to an injury. Wasim Jaffer, however, feels Ajinkya Rahane should’ve been given the baton instead.

KL Rahul made his India captaincy bow in the second Test of the 3-match series against South Africa at Johannesburg, but couldn’t guide the team to a victory. KL Rahul was put in charge of the team after Virat Kohli had missed the fixture due to an injury. Wasim Jaffer, however, feels KL Rahul wasn’t the right choice, and the responsibility should’ve been handed to Ajinkya Rahane.

KL Rahul (Image Credit: Twitter)
KL Rahul (Image Credit: Twitter)

KL Rahul Captained After Virat Kohli Was Ruled Out For Back Spasms Which Surprised Wasim Jaffer Who Felt Ajinkya Rajhane Should Have Led Instead

The role of Test vice-captain was taken away from Ajinkya Rahane ahead of the South Africa tour, with Rohit Sharma being given the designation. However, as Rohit Sharma missed the series due to an injury, it was KL Rahul who got the selectors’ nod for the role.

Wasim Jaffer said that he was quite surprised with the team management’s decision considering the sort of record Ajinkya Rahane has while leading India in Tests.

“I am surprised by the team management. When you have someone as good as Ajinkya Rahane available who has not lost any Test as a captain and won you a Test series in Australia, do you need to give the Test captaincy to KL Rahul?” Jaffer said.

Ajinkya Rahane. (Photo Source: Getty Images)
Ajinkya Rahane. (Photo Source: Getty Images)

“I have nothing against KL Rahul. He is young and has captained the Punjab Kings. People are thinking about him as a future captain. But I think Rahane should have led the side in Kohli’s absence,” he added.

Ajinkya Rahane has captained India in 6 Tests, remaining unbeaten with 4 wins and 2 draws. Ajinkya Rahane was last appointed as the captain of the Indian team for the first Test against New Zealand in November 2021, as Virat Kohli had been rested. But KL Rahul, who had replaced Ajinkya Rahane as India’s Test vice-captain, stood in for the Delhi-born Virat Kohli when he was injured for the 2nd Test against and in South Africa.

Wasim Jaffer: India Missed Virat Kohli

The absence of Virat Kohli in the Johannesburg Test was duly felt. Without him in the field, Wasim Jaffer feels the Indian team lacked the aggression and energy that Virat Kohli brings to the game.

“India definitely missed Virat Kohli, the captain, because he brings so much aggression to the field. When you have such a player on the field, you know you will be held accountable if you make a mistake. So, they missed that energy,” Jaffer asserted.

Wasim Jaffer (Credits: Twitter)
Wasim Jaffer (Credits: Twitter)

In all likeliness, Virat Kohli will return to lead the team in the series-decider at Cape Town. Virat Kohli’s return, however, also poses a big question for the team management. It isn’t yet known whether the India skipper will replace Hanuma Vihari in the playing XI or one of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane.

The third and final Test of the series is scheduled to get underway on Tuesday, January 11 at The Newlands in Cape Town. India won the first Test by 114 runs at the SuperSport Park in Centurion after which the home team stormed back by winning the 2nd Test by 7 wickets at Johannesburg.

KL Rahul is the top run-getter across both sides in the ongoing India versus South Africa 3 matches Test series. His 204 runs in the first 2 Tests have come at an excellent average of 51.00 and include a century and a half-century. KL Rahul became only the second Indian opener to score a century (123) in a Test in South Africa after Wasim Jaffer had amassed 116 in the 2007 series in Cape Town.

Hanuma Vihari and Shreyas Iyer. (Photo Source: Getty Images and BCCI)
Hanuma Vihari and Shreyas Iyer. (Photo Source: Getty Images and BCCI)
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Rahul Dravid Hints Hanuma Vihari And Shreyas Iyer Will Have To Wait To Become Regulars As Senior Batsmen Will Be Preferred

Rahul Dravid never believed in “rocking the boat” and is certainly not going to change his template of giving the longest rope possible to veteran experienced middle-order batsmen Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane even if Hanuma Vihari’s wait for regular chances gets a tad longer.

Hanuma Vihari, Indian cricket’s ‘Tough Runs Man’ has never had it easy in terms of chances as he has played only one of his 13 Tests at home and it was skipper Virat Kohli’s back spasms and Shreyas Iyer’s stomach bug that opened the door for another chance.

Rahul Dravid Photo Credit: PTI
Rahul Dravid Photo Credit: PTI

Rahul Dravid Crediting Hanuma Vihari For Playing Well In Both Innings

The Hyderabad man did his bit in the second innings with an unbeaten 40 in India’s target of 240 for the Proteas and Rahul Dravid praised him although if Virat Kohli comes back, it could mean that Hanuma Vihari could return to the bench.

“Firstly I must say Vihari played really in both innings. In first innings he got a nasty one and unfortunately for him, it popped up and fielder just got his finger tips to it and really got a good catch, he batted beautifully in the second innings and that gives us confidence you know,” Rahul Dravid was effusive in his praise for Hanuma Vihari.

He also took the opportunity to praise Shreyas Iyer who scored a ton on his debut against New Zealand in 2021 and is another strong middle-order contender.

“Shreyas (Iyer) obviously done that two or three Test matches ago and he has obviously done that and they have just got to take heart from the fact that whenever they are getting opportunities, they are doing well and hopefully their time would come.”

But that doesn’t mean that he will be preferred over and above Ajinkya Rahane or a Cheteshwar Pujara in this set-up with Virat Kohli set to comeback in the next game, as Rahul Dravid made it pretty clear.

In fact, without naming, he cited examples during his playing days when the middle-order was jam-packed and guys like experienced Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, and Ajinkya Rahane had to wait for a year or two before being Test team regulars.

“If you look at some of our guys now senior players and being sort of considered, senior players, they have also had to wait for their time and also have had to score a lot of runs at the start of their careers,” said Rahul Dravid.

Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)
Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters)

Rahul Dravid does have a transition and phase-out plan but like everything has its own opportune time, this will also have to wait.

“So it happens (wait) as its nature of the sport,” Rahul Dravid said adding, “We can take a lot of heart from the manner Vihari batted in this game and that should give him a lot of confidence and that should give us a lot of confidence.”

Making his Test debut in 2018, Hanuma Vihari has played 13 matches in the format, 12 overseas, and scored 684 runs at an average of 34.2 with one hundred and four fifties.

Rahul Dravid: Mohammed Siraj Is Not Fully Fit And Defended Starting 4th Day’s Proceeding With Spinner Ravichandran Ashwin

Rahul Dravid confirmed that fast bowler Mohammed Siraj hasn’t recovered from the hamstring injury sustained during the second Test and it can’t be said with certainty that he will be available for the final game starting in Cape Town from January 11.

“Siraj is not fully fit and we need to check going forward what is his fitness status. In the next 4 days, whether he can get fit and physio will be doing scans. As far as Hanuma Vihari’s on-field hit is concerned, I am not in a position to tell the extent of injury as I haven’t had a detailed chat with the physio.”

Mohammed Siraj’s injury did pose a problem while defending a modest kind of target of 240. After bowling 9.5 overs in the first innings, Mohammed Siraj who bowled with a hamstring injury finished with figures of 6-0-37-0 in the second and bowled at an economy of 6.16.

“Losing Siraj (was a factor) as he wasn’t 100 percent in the first innings,” said Rahul Dravid while lauding the fast bowler’s heart to even bowl when he was injured.

“We had the fifth bowler and we couldn’t use him as much as we would have liked in that first innings and it did affect our strategy.”

Mohammed Siraj, Ravichandran Ashwin
Mohammed Siraj, Ravichandran Ashwin

Starting the fourth afternoon’s proceedings with Ravichandran Ashwin did draw a lot of flak but the head coach defended the decision.

“I guess we saw the ball spinning on the third day for Ashwin and we wanted to get him into action till the ball was dry and see if he gets some spin in the first few overs. As ball got wet (due to wet outfield), it was difficult for a spinner to get into the game. He (Ashwin) bowled a really good spell on the third day. The gamble was to try and give him the dry ball,” the coach explained.

Rahul Dravid, who had already spoken about how batters should seize key moments, didn’t agree that not having a practice match could be an excuse.

“We prepared as well as we could in these Covid situations and fact that we didn’t have a three-day game, …really dont have excuses apart from fact that we played well in first Test and SA outplayed us in this game.”

Shardul Thakur’s terrific spell (7/61) in the first innings brought India back in the game but as of now, he holds an unwanted record. 7/61 is the best figure in losing cause for any visiting bowler in South Africa. South Africa’s Dean Elgar played a captain’s knock scoring an unbeaten 96 to take the hosts to a 7-wicket win leveling the 3-match series 1-1 against India.

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