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Rohit Sharma, India
Rohit Sharma. Image Credits: Twitter
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Rohit Sharma Most Obvious Choice To Be Test Captain But There Are Serious Questions About His Fitness: Aakash Chopra

Aakash Chopra, former India opener has pointed out an important aspect about the Mumbai cricketer Rohit Sharma– his fitness. Several experts have backed Rohit Sharma, who is leading India in the limited-overs format, to take over the responsibilities in the longest format as well.

Rohit Sharma was scheduled to travel to South Africa as Virat Kohli’s deputy in the Test series and then would have led the side in the 3 ODIs. However, a hamstring injury ruled him out of the entire tour. Aakash Chopra, in his latest YouTube video, highlighted right-hand senior batter is an obvious choice but his fitness is a big question.

Virat Kohli with Rohit Sharma
Virat Kohli with Rohit Sharma IMAGE: AFP

Aakash Chopra: There Are Serious Questions About Rohit Sharma’s Fitness For Hamstring Has Been Troubling Him Since 2020

The discussion on India’s next Test captain is getting more intense with every passing day. The experts are coming up with different names for the post vacated by Virat Kohli on Saturday. A day after losing the Cape Town Test, the Delhi-born cricketer took to social media and made the shocking announcement. Ever since he has stepped down, a number of suggestions have cropped up to fill in the space.

“Rohit Sharma seems to be the most obvious choice because he is the ODI and T20I captain at the moment and the last one year was a watershed event for him in Tests. But there are serious questions about his fitness because the hamstring is troubling him since 2020. In theory, it seems alright but will he be able to remain fit?” Aakash Chopra said.

Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra. (Photo Source: Twitter)

Rohit Sharma’s hamstring injury, after replacing Ajinkya Rahane as Test vice-captain, ruled him out of the South Africa tour. It is known to have forced the selectors to have a long hard look at his fitness levels and workload. Rohit Sharma’s left hamstring injury had also prevented him from playing in all the matches in the 2020 IPL, followed by the limited-overs series in Australia and the first two Tests there.

Aakash Chopra: KL Rahul Also Seems To Be An Obvious Choice

The cricketer-turned-commentator further suggested that KL Rahul, who will lead the ODI team in South Arica, can also take the role, given his rapid rise in Test cricket.

“KL Rahul also seems to be an obvious choice. His stature has grown in Test cricket over the last one year. But it is also true that it has happened only after August. He was made to open and has not looked back since. But does he come across as your natural leader?” said Aakash Chopra.

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

KL Rahul’s life has taken a 180-degree turn over the last six months with a dramatic revival of his Test career. It was only six months ago that the keeper was nowhere near making India’s first-choice XI in Tests.

In fact, the right-handed opening batter did not feature in a Test match for India for two years between 2019 and 2021. However, injuries to Shubman Gill and Mayank Agarwal gave him an unexpected opportunity to open the innings in the tour to England with Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul has not looked back since.

KL Rahul captained India in Test cricket for the first time after Virat Kohli was ruled out of the second Test against South Africa due to upper back spasms. Earlier a hamstring injury led to Rohit Sharma not making the trip to South Africa and KL Rahul being elevated to the role of vice-captain.

KL Rahul will lead India in the three-match ODI series in South Africa starting on Wednesday 19th January. Rohit Sharma is expected to regain fitness to lead in the home ODI series against West Indies, starting on February 6.

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Harbhajan Singh. (Twitter/KKRiders)
Harbhajan Singh. (Twitter/KKRiders)
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“Doors Have Been Opened For Shreyas Iyer And Suryakumar Yadav In The Test Team”-Harbhajan Singh

Former India off-spinner Harbhajan Singh believes that India will make wholesale changes in their test team after the defeat against South Africa. Harbhajan also suggested alternatives for ‘out of form’ players as India will take on Sri Lanka for 2-Test match series starting on February 25 at Bengaluru.

Last week South Africa beat India by 7 wickets at Cape Town to wrap up the series by 2-1. India started the series as strong favourites as they took a lead by 1-0 in the first test at Centurion but the visitors lost their way in the remaining two tests. India’s batting has been getting criticism from all corners as they failed to put on 300 runs in any of the last two test matches.

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

Harbhajan was quite critical of Mayank Agarwal as the Karnataka opener failed to make an impression after the fifty in the first innings at Centurion. Mayank scored 135 runs in 6 innings with an average of 22.5 which included lone fifty. So Harbhajan suggested team management to reintroduce the likes of Shubman Gill and Prithvi Shaw.

“Mayank Agarwal got six innings but he didn’t make use of the opportunity, which is a sign that some new player might come. Shubman Gill and Prithvi Shaw can be seen in the next series because six innings is more than enough for a player. Mayank is a good player whom I support but since he hasn’t scored enough so I don’t know what will be the way forward from here,” Harbhajan Singh spoke on his Youtube Channel.

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

“The way ahead from here will be difficult for Pujara and Rahane”-Harbhajan Singh

Harbhajan also stated that the expectations from Rahane and Pujara are much higher than odd fifty here and there and suggested that the team should ahead now. He believes that Iyer, who scored a hundred on his debut test, and Suryakumar should replace them.

“Rahane and Pujara played 50-run knocks in Johannesburg but expectations from seniors are much higher than this. They haven’t scored enough runs and I personally feel the way ahead from here will be difficult for them. Players like Suryakumar Yadav, Shreyas Iyer, who scored a hundred in the previous series are waiting for their opportunity and I feel the way Rahane and Pujara performed they have actually opened the doors for Iyer and Suryakumar,” Harbhajan said.

He also lauded the efforts of South Africa who got the better of the experienced Indian lineup.

“They didn’t have any big names in their batting line-up but still managed to beat a team like India and it is highly commendable,” he concluded.

Also read “I Am Not Worried About What Happened In That 2018 Series”-Temba Bavuma

Virat Kohli, Image Source : AP IMAGE
Virat Kohli, Image Source : AP IMAGE
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Sachin Tendulkar Congratulates Virat Kohli On His Successful Stint As A Test Captain

Virat Kohli who stepped down as the Test captain was congratulated by legendary former Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar, an ex-skipper himself, and currently, the leading ODI and Test run-getter and the batsman who has scored most tons.

Virat Kohli on Saturday announced that he is stepping down as the captain of the Indian Test team. Last year, the 33-year-old had stepped down as the T20I captain and then he was removed as the ODI leader as the selectors wanted one captain for the white-ball format.

Virat Kohli and Sachin Tendulkar [Image Courtesy: Twitter]
Virat Kohli and Sachin Tendulkar [Image Courtesy: Twitter]

Sachin Tendulkar Congratulated Virat Kohli For His Successful Stint As Captain Praising Him For Giving 100%

Virat Kohli on Saturday stunned the cricking world with his sudden decision of relinquishing captaincy in Tests. His decision comes after Team India lost the 3-match Test series to South Africa 2-1. Back in 2014, he led India for the first time in the longest format of the game after which he took the team to newer heights in the next seven years. Yuvraj Singh and Mayank Agarwal took to social media site Twitter and praised him.

“Congratulations on a successful stint as a captain, @imVkohli. You always gave 100% for the team and you always will. Wishing you all the very best for the future,” tweeted Sachin Tendulkar.

Meanwhile, India batter Mayank Agarwal took to his Twitter and posted some pictures with Virat Kohli and wrote, “Congratulations @imVkohli on a fantastic term as captain. It was an absolute honour playing under your leadership. Someone who led by example. You have created a winning mentality in everyone. Your passion and dedication to the game are an inspiration. Thank you, Skips.”

Yuvraj Singh. (Photo by Marty Melville/Getty Images)
Yuvraj Singh. (Photo by Marty Melville/Getty Images)

Former India batter Yuvraj Singh also wrote, “It’s been a remarkable journey King Kohli @imVkohli! Very few have been able to achieve what you have. Gave his all and played like a true champion each time. May you grow from strength to strength! Onwards and upwards.”

Virat Kohli led in 68 Test matches out of which the team registered victory in 40 games. 17 of them ended in a draw and lost 11 face-offs. Virat Kohli won 40 matches, which is 13 more than MS Dhoni. Virat Kohli captained India in 25 series. He won 18, lost six, and drew one series. Under him, India won 16 away Tests – the most for India, ahead of Sourav Ganguly who had won 11.

Virat Kohli Resigns As Most Successful Indian Test Skipper

Virat Kohli holds the record for most Test appearances as India Test captain (68) and he also holds the record for most Test wins by an Indian captain (40). Only Graeme Smith, Ricky Ponting, and Steve Waugh have won more matches than Kohli as captain in Test cricket.

Announcing his decision on Twitter to leave Test captaincy, Kohli said: “It’s been 7 years of hard work, toil, and relentless perseverance every day to take the team in the right direction. I’ve done the job with absolute honesty and left nothing out there. Everything has to come to a halt at some stage and for me as Test Captain of India, it’s now.”

“There have been many ups and also some downs along the journey, but never has there been a lack of effort or lack of belief. I have always believed in giving my 120 percent in everything I do, and if I can’t do that, I know it’s not the right thing to do. I have absolute clarity in my heart and I cannot be dishonest to my team.”

Virat Kohli with MS Dhoni Aijaz Rahi / AP
Virat Kohli with MS Dhoni Aijaz Rahi / AP

“I want to thank the BCCI for giving me the opportunity to lead my country for such a long period of time and more importantly to all the teammates who bought into the vision I bad for the team from day one and never gave up in any situation. You guys have made this journey so memorable and beautiful.”

“To Ravi Bhai and the support group who were the engine behind this vehicle that moved us upwards in Test Cricket consistently, you all have played a massive role in bringing this vision to life. Lastly, a big thank you to MS Dhoni who believed in me as a Captain and found me to be an able individual who could take Indian Cricket forward,” he added.

Virat Kohli had first led the side in Test cricket in 2014 against Australia. His last game as captain was the Cape Town Test in South Africa, which India lost by seven wickets. Filling the shoes of MS Dhoni was not going to be easy, but Virat Kohli took leadership by storm, and quickly, he cemented himself as one of the best thinkers the country has seen in Test cricket.

The leadership also brought out the best in Virat Kohli and it saw the batter registering seven double-centuries in the longest format of the game. Virat Kohli also holds the record for scoring most Test centuries (20) as India captain.

Salman Butt. Image-Twitter
Salman Butt. Image-Twitter
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Playing On Challenging Pitches Negatively Impacted KL Rahul And Mayank Agarwal’s Thought Process: Salman Butt

Salman Butt, the former tainted Pakistan captain reckons playing on challenging batting surfaces in South Africa has negatively impacted the thought process of Indian openers KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal.

KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal began the series with 123 and 60 respectively in the first innings at Centurion. However, they have struggled with fluency since. KL Rahul managed a fifty in the loss in Johannesburg but Mayank Agarwal’s uncertainty outside the off-stump has been exposed time and again.

KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal. (AFP File Photos)
KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal. (AFP File Photos)

Salman Butt: KL Rahul And Mayank Agarwal’s Thought Process Got Disturbed For Playing Consistently On Testing Pitches

Analyzing the woes of the openers in South Africa, Salman Butt opined that KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal’s issues are more mental than technical.

Speaking on his YouTube channel, the former cricketer explained: “Indian openers were in very good form (when the series started) but when you play on testing pitches consistently, at times, your thought process gets disturbed. This is what has happened to Rahul and Agarwal. If you compare Rahul and Agarwal with (Cheteshwar) Pujara and (Virat) Kohli, it’s the footwork that’s the big difference.”

Controversial Pakistan batsman Salman Butt
Controversial Pakistan batsman Salman Butt (File Photo | AFP)

Reflecting on the openers’ cheap dismissals in the second innings in Cape Town on Wednesday, the 37-year-old pointed out the lack of footwork displayed by the duo.

Salman Butt, himself a former opener, elaborated: “Both KL Rahul and Agarwal were stuck in the crease against full length balls. They should have been forward but their feet are not moving. Extra bounce is playing on their minds. It’s not about the technique but the thought process.”

While KL Rahul was back in the pavilion after scoring 10 on Wednesday, Mayank Agarwal managed only seven before losing his wicket. Mayank Agarwal started the 3 Test series against South Africa on a promising note, scoring a 123-ball 60 in difficult conditions in Centurion. But his form tapered off after that, with scores of 4, 26, 23, 15, and 7 in the next five innings.

Salman Butt: India Need Another Virat Kohli Special To Win The 3rd Test

The visitors fought back well after losing their openers to end the day on 57 for 2, extending their lead to 70. Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli battled out a tricky period towards the close of play on Day 2 in Cape Town. According to Salman Butt, with the pitch continuing to pose problems, India will need another special knock from Virat Kohli to set a challenging target for the Proteas.

In the 1st innings of the 3rd Test, Virat Kohli might have breached the three-figure mark if he had adequate support from the other end. He looked destined to get to that elusive 71st century. With no reliable partners at the other end, the Indian skipper went fishing for a delivery outside off after 200 deliveries at the crease. He scored a gritty 79 off 201 balls. Virat Kohli scored his second slowest fifty of his career as he reached the mark in 158 balls.

The ex-cricketer stated: “The pitch is highly challenging for batters and both sides are struggling. India need another Kohli special. Both him and Pujara are playing very well. People keep saying that these cricketers, who are not in form, should be dropped. But they tackled a tricky period towards the end of play really well. India need to bat till tomorrow (Thursday) evening to post a challenging target of around 250. They can then put South Africa under pressure.”

Virat Kohli[photo: Twitter]
Virat Kohli[photo: Twitter]
At Stumps on Day 2, Virat Kohli was unbeaten on 14 off 39 balls and Cheteshwar Pujara on 9 off 31 deliveries. India had earlier bundled out South Africa for a paltry 210, gaining a small lead of 13 runs at the halfway stage of the match. There are still three days left in the ongoing Test match. It will be interesting to see if India can bat throughout the third day or if South Africa will make early inroads.

Mayank Agarwal. (Photo | PTI)
Mayank Agarwal. (Photo | PTI)
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Sanjay Manjrekar Worried About Opener Mayank Agarwal’s Dismissals In His Last Few Innings

Sanjay Manjrekar is worried about Mayank Agarwal’s mode of dismissals in his last few innings. He observed that the opening batter is poking at deliveries outside the off-stump with hard hands, which is a problem that needs to be worked upon soon.

Mayank Agarwal started the three-Test series against South Africa on a promising note, scoring a 123-ball 60 in difficult conditions in Centurion. But his form tapered off after that, with scores of 4, 26, 23, 15, and 7 in the next five innings. He was caught at slips while trying to drive good length deliveries outside the off-stump in both innings of the ongoing Test.

Mayank Agarwal. (Photo: BCCI)
Mayank Agarwal. (Photo: BCCI)

Sanjay Manjrekar Is Worried By The Way Mayank Agarwal Was Dismissed In The Last Few Test Innings

Mayank Agarwal has played 19 Tests so far amassing 1429 runs at an impressive average of 43.3. He didn’t do well in Australia recently and played the two Tests against New Zealand only because opener KL Rahul got injured and another opener Rohit Sharma was rested.

The Karnataka star followed up his 150 in the first innings with 62 runs in the second innings in the 2nd Test against New Zealand. After scoring 60 in the 1st innings of the 1st Test in the next Test series against Proteas, the opener failed to cross 30 even once in the next 5 innings, amassing only 135 runs averaging 22.5 against South Africa.

Speaking in this regard on an interaction, Sanjay Manjrekar said: “How you get out is very important for a coach or a selector to decide the future of a player and the way Mayank Agarwal has got out in the last few innings worries me. Until this Test match, I thought he was shaping well and he might [have found] a way to come with softer hands on the ball, leave balls outside the off-stump.”

Sanjay Manjrekar | Sportzpics
Sanjay Manjrekar | Sportzpics

“Outside the off-stump, that channel is tricky to handle. Different batters handle it differently. Virat Kohli these days leaves everything outside the off-stump, some people play and are very confident. Mayank Agarwal needs to find a way to tackle that line.”

Sanjay Manjrekar added: “At the moment, he’s coming with two hard [hands], with a high backlift and the bat is coming hard on the ball. The slip catches [off his bat] are also going so quickly to the catchers to suggest it’s coming very hard. So Mayank Agarwal has a problem and that’s I guess work for the batting coach and Rahul Dravid.”

Mayank Agarwal was equally bullish on his off-side strokeplay in that first innings of the series. But he got away with a few close calls and made the South African pacers pay for their inconsistent lengths. The Proteas bowlers have since been on the money, exposing the right-hander’s weaknesses on quicker pitches.

The series was a crucial opportunity for Mayank Agarwal to perform in the absence of other openers injured Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill. He would not be happy with just 135 runs from six innings.

Sanjay Manjrekar: Series A Show Of 2 Quality Bowling Attacks Against 2 Weak Batting Lineups

Looking at the bigger picture, Sanjay Manjrekar also noted that the series has been a show of two quality bowling attacks against two ‘weak’ batting lineups so far.

Sanjay Manjrekar explained: “We are looking at two quality bowling lineups, but the fact also remains that we are seeing two not-so-great batting lineups. One is South Africa that’s weak on ability, to begin with; India of course [is] not weak in ability but on form – a lot of them are off the boil a little bit. So it’s the story of two teams with weakness in the batting lineup.”

Dean Elgar punches the air after hitting the winning four AFP via Getty Images
Dean Elgar punches the air after hitting the winning four AFP via Getty Images

Despite Mayank Agarwal and KL Rahul’s early dismissals, India raced to a 70-run lead at the end of Day 2. Sanjay Manjrekar insisted that, barring Dean Elgar, he has “no faith” in the hosts’ batting lineup, adding that a 200-run target should be enough for Team India.

Sanjay Manjrekar said: “I just have no faith in this South African batting lineup. If Dean Elgar plays well, there’s some hope. But when you have a batting lineup of the kind where Marco Jansen is coming so up the order, I think 200 should be enough for India’s bowling attack. The kind of attack they have, with Bumrah now finding a way to bowl outside the off-stump so runs should be hard to come by. The last time they chased 240 was a combination of Elgar playing one of his best innings and India bowling poorly. That’s unlikely to happen everytime.”

Dean Elgar played an unbeaten 96-run knock in South Africa’s second innings in the previous 2nd Test to take his team across the finish line. The gritty opener took numerous blows to his body but kept the Indian attack at bay during his more than five-hour vigil at the crease.

Shaun Pollock ©Reuters
Shaun Pollock ©Reuters
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Shaun Pollock Reckons Having A High Backlift Is Making Scoring Difficult For Mayank Agarwal And Aiden Markram

Shaun Pollock, the ex-Protea skipper reckons having a high backlift is making scoring difficult for the opener of India Mayank Agarwal and his Proteas counterpart Aiden Markram in the ongoing 3 matches Test series.

Mayank Agarwal has scored 135 runs in six innings at an average of 22.50, with a solitary half-century. Aiden Markram has fared even worse, managing only 60 runs in five innings at an average of 12.

Shaun Pollock (Image Credit: Twitter)
Shaun Pollock (Image Credit: Twitter)

Shaun Pollock Reckons Mayank Agarwal And Aiden Markram Have Issues On Surfaces Where There’s Movement Off The Air And Seam

Mayank Agarwal was caught behind for 7 off Kagiso Rabada’s bowling in India’s second innings on Wednesday. Analyzing both the openers’ woes, Shaun Pollock said that the duo of Aiden Markram and Mayank Agarwal have high backlifts which cause problems in conditions where there is movement through the air and off the seam.

“I think he’s got a little bit of a similar thing to Markram. I have never been a fan of guys who pick the bat up steep and keep it close. In order to defend or play, you’ve got to, sort of drop it into the slot. Guys who have their backlift quite low to the ground, Kallis, Root, Kohli to a degree, AB de Villiers, they can be soft on what they decide to do. When they want to bail out of a shot, they are not 100 percent committed to the downswing,” said Shaun Pollock.

Mayank Agarwal (left) and Aiden Markram. Pics: Getty Images
Mayank Agarwal (left) and Aiden Markram. Pics: Getty Images

The South African legend Shaun Pollock pointed out that batters can adjust their high backlift in subcontinental conditions, where the ball doesn’t nip around. However, the case is not the same in a place like South Africa.

Shaun Pollock added: “Him and Markram have a similar kind of issue on these surfaces that are nipping around. On flatter surfaces in India, you can rely on your bat speed and get away with it. But when you are asked (questions) by the movement through the air and off the seam, sometimes he (Agarwal) is found wanting. That may be something he has to have a look.”

In his last 14 innings in away Tests, Mayank Agarwal has scored only one half-century, which came in the first innings of the Centurion encounter. In the first innings too, Mayank Agarwal was dropped on 0, before he scored 15 before edging Kagiso Rabada to second slip, where Aiden Markram completed an easy catch.

Mayank Agarwal started the 3 Test series against South Africa on a promising note, scoring a 123-ball 60 in difficult conditions in Centurion. But his form tapered off after that, with scores of 4, 26, 23, 15, and 7 in the next five innings.

Dinesh Karthik Reckons Ravichandran Ashwin Will Come Into The Game Very Much In The 4th Innings

The visitors ended Day 2 of the Cape Town Test with a lead of 70 and eight second-innings wickets in hand. According to wicketkeeper-batter Dinesh Karthik, Virat Kohli-led India should feel comfortable if they score 270.

He stated: “Both teams haven’t batted to their potential. SA have a far lighter batting compared to India. But India, a lot of times, they start well but somewhere they seem to fritter away a bit. For me, if they can manage anything above 270, I think they would be sitting pretty in this Test match.”

Dinesh Karthik file image. (Photo: Surjeet Yadav/IANS)
Dinesh Karthik file image. (Photo: Surjeet Yadav/IANS)

Dinesh Karthik opined that off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who has had a quiet series in pace-friendly conditions, might finally have a decisive role to play.

He elaborated: “Ashwin will come into the game very much in the 4th innings. Anything under 240, South Africa will fancy themselves. A lot will depend on Dean Elgar. He is the glue that holds South Africa together. If they get him out early, any score is going to be hard enough for South Africa.”

India will resume their second innings on 57 for 2, with Virat Kohli unbeaten on 14 and Cheteshwar Pujara on 9. India bundled out South Africa for a paltry 210, gaining a small lead of 13 runs at the halfway stage of the match. There are still three days left in the ongoing Test match. It will be interesting to see if India can bat throughout the third day or if South Africa will make early inroads.

Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara
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Keegan Petersen Admits Virat Kohli And Cheteshwar Pujara Have Been A Headache For Proteas In The 3rd Test

Keegan Petersen, the South African batsman said Indian skipper Virat Kohli and No 3 Cheteshwar Pujara have been a “bit of a headache” for South Africa and the team will look to get them early on Day 3 of the series-deciding third and final Test.

India lost both their openers cheaply once again in the second innings but Cheteshwar Pujara (9) and Virat Kohli (14) thereafter took charge of the proceedings and saw through the second day to take their overall lead to 70 runs.

Virat Kohli Cheteshwar Pujara would be the key for India in the third day of the third Test played at Newlands, Cape Town@ Twitter/ ICC
Virat Kohli Cheteshwar Pujara would be the key for India in the third day of the third Test played at Newlands, Cape Town@ Twitter/ ICC

Keegan Petersen Reckons The Key Would Be To Pick Up A Few Early Wickets While Admitting Virat Kohli And Cheteshwar Pujara Have  Been A Headache

In the first innings, Virat Kohli top-scored with a well-crafted 79 off 201 balls, while Cheteshwar Pujara gave fine assistance with a 77-ball 43 to steady the proceedings after KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal were dismissed early.

“The key would be to pick up a few early wickets tomorrow morning… The two batting now have been a bit of a headache for us in the last couple of innings,” Keegan Petersen said in the media interaction after the end of day two’s proceedings.

“He’s (Kohli) one of the best batters in the world and he’s shown that time and again. Yes, he will be the big wicket tomorrow and if we can get his wicket early, it will open up the game.

Keegan Petersen Picture Credit: IANS twitter profile
Keegan Petersen Picture Credit: IANS Twitter profile

Keegan Petersen, who hit 72 off 166 balls, was the top scorer for the home side as they were dismissed by India for 210, conceding a 13-run first-innings lead.

“We would have been happy if we overcame the deficit and got a bit of a lead. That was the plan coming into the game today,” Keegan Petersen said.

Keegan Petersen brought up his second fifty of the series on Wednesday against some top-class Indian pace bowling.

Keegan Petersen: Indian Pace Attack Is Extremely Challenging

The 28-year-old led South Africa’s fightback after Jasprit Bumrah removed the openers early in the series-deciding third Test.

“It’s (the Indian pace attack) extremely challenging. It’s the most challenging I’ve had in my whole career. You have to be focused and on your mark all the time or else they will expose you.”

Jasprit Bumrah (Photo by PETER PARKS / AFP)
Jasprit Bumrah (Photo by PETER PARKS / AFP)

“They test you in terms of scoring, there’s not much of scoring opportunities. They have not given us much. They are arguably one of the best bowling attacks in the world. We knew that coming into the series, it’s been challenging, we just got to deal with it,” Petersen said.

On missing out on a century for the second time in the series, he said: “To be honest, it’s not lack of trying. It’s just eluding us at the moment. Yes, I got close but let the team down by not getting there. But I think it will come eventually.”

On the second of the third Test match at Cape Town, Jasprit Bumrah picked his 7th fifer in Test cricket as he delivered a terrific spell with figures of 23.3-8-42-5. It’s notable that India never lost a Test match when Jasprit Bumrah took a fifer.

In fact, out of 6 fifers previously, only one match was ended in a draw as the fifth day was washed out in Nottingham 2021 otherwise all other five occasions- Johannesburg (2018), Nottingham (2018), Melbourne (2018), North Sound (2019), Kingston (2019), his fifer played a key role in India’s historic wins.

India ended Day 2 with their scorecard reading 57/2, and are currently ahead by 70 runs. Both Indian openers were once again dismissed cheaply. His opening partner, KL Rahul followed him to the dressing room in the very next over. Marco Jansen bowled a full-length delivery, as KL Rahul edged the cherry to Aiden Markram in the slip cordon.

Mohammad Shami / AFP / Jewel SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
Mohammad Shami / AFP / Jewel SAMAD (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
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Gautam Gambhir Praised Most Threatening Pacer Of The Series 31 Year Old Mohammed Shami

Gautam Gambhir, former India opener lavished high praise for the 31-year-old pacer Mohammed Shami, calling him the most threatening bowler of the series, being impressed with his wonderful spell.

Indian pacers enjoyed a fine outing on Day 2 of the second Test against South Africa in Cape Town. The Proteas were bowled out for 210 as India managed to get a slender lead, with pacers Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, and Shardul Thakur combining to pick all 10 wickets.

Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah (AP Photos)
Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah (AP Photos)

Gautam Gambhir: No One Would Want To Face Mohammed Shami

While Jasprit Bumrah led the attack and emerged as the star of the day, registering a seventh five-wicket-haul in Tests, Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami bagged two wickets each, and Shardul Thakur picked up one. However, while it was Jasprit Bumrah who broke the back of the South African attack, one particular spell bowled by Mohammed Shami was what turned the game on its head.

In one over, Mohammed Shami dismissed Temba Bavuma to break a promising partnership and followed it with the wicket of Kyle Verreynne for a duck. Suddenly, from a strong position of 112/3, South Africa slumped to 159 for 6, to eventually bundle out for 13 runs short of India’s first-innings total.

Gautam Gambhir AFP
Gautam Gambhir AFP

Impressed with Mohammed Shami’s wonderful spell, former India opener Gautam Gambhir lavished high praise for the 31-year-old pacer, calling him the most threatening bowler of the series.

“More than the fear, he was threatening throughout the day, in this innings, and probably throughout the series. The kind of lengths which he bowled, kept testing the batter. Ask any top batsman. No one would want to face him. He bowls so close to the stumps that he is always in or around off-stump. And from there on, he gets the movement and from there on he gets the edges,” Gambhir said on the Byju’s Cricket Live Show on Star Sports.

 India was 57 for the loss of two wickets at stumps in the second innings of the ongoing third Test against South Africa at the Newlands in Cape Town. The visitors have taken an overall lead of 70 runs. India lost openers Mayank Agarwal and KL Rahul early but Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara steadied the ship. Earlier, India had taken a 13-run lead after bowling out the hosts for 210.

Gautam Gambhir: Mohammed Shami Is Relentless And Is Threatening

Gautam Gambhir used a couple of wonderful adjectives for Mohammed Shami and hailed him as one of the best Test bowlers presently in the world. While Jasprit Bumrah took the cake, finishing with 5/42 – his seventh five-for in Tests, Mohammed Shami’s figures of 2/39 from 16 overs was equally impressive.

Mohammed Shami
Mohammed Shami. Image Credits: Twitter

“I think Mohammed Shami or Jasprit Bumrah will keep challenging any batter. More me, Mohammed Shami is relentless and he’s very threatening. He is probably one of the best bowlers going around in red-ball cricket,” Gambhir added.

Keegan Petersen top-scored with a fighting 72 before he was dismissed by Jasprit Bumrah just after Tea. Initially, India posted a total of 223 with skipper Virat Kohli top-scoring with a fighting knock of 79. Mohammed Shami has already picked up 13 wickets in the ongoing series averaging a mere 19.46 with a five-wicket haul in the 1st Test. He is India’s leading wicket-taker in the ongoing series and 3rd overall after Kagiso Rabada (18) and Marco Jansen (16).

While Mayank Agarwal and Ajaz Patel were impressive in India vs New Zealand Test series, Mitchell Starc is in sensational form in Ashes 2021-22. | Twitter/@ICC
While Mayank Agarwal and Ajaz Patel were impressive in India vs New Zealand Test series, Mitchell Starc is in sensational form in Ashes 2021-22. | Twitter/@ICC
/

Mayank Agarwal Among 3 Players Nominated For ICC Player Of The Month – December 2021

Mayank Agarwal, opening Indian Test batsman was on Saturday nominated for the ICC Player of the Month award for December following his stellar performance in the Test series against New Zealand and South Africa.

Besides Mayank Agarwal, New Zealand spinner Ajaz Patel and Australian pacer Mitchell Starc were also short-listed for the award.

Mayank Agarwal. (Photo: BCCI)
Mayank Agarwal. (Photo: BCCI)

Mayank Agarwal Nominated For ICC Player Of The Month – December 2021

With regular openers Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, and KL Rahul all missing games at some point last month, Agarwal grabbed the opportunity with both hands against New Zealand and South Africa. In two matches, he scored 276 runs at an average of 69.00, which included two fifties and a century.

Mayank Agarwal was the architect of the win in Mumbai against New Zealand with a Player of the Match-winning performance of 150 and 62 in the two innings. He also played a crucial role in India breaching the Centurion fortress with a win for the very first time.

KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal. (AFP File Photos)
KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal. (AFP File Photos)

Batting first in overcast conditions, KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal set the platform with a brilliant opening partnership of 117. During the stand, he was tested by the fiery Proteas pace attack but came out shining with a brilliant 60. India posted 327 in the first innings, which eventually proved to be the difference between the two sides.

Mayank Agarwal scored 857 runs, the fourth-highest by an Indian batsman in the inaugural WTC cycle, but lost his place to Shubman Gill after failing in three matches in Australia. He made his comeback in the home series against New Zealand. In the second Test match, he scored 150 in the first innings and 62 in the second innings. For this magnificent performance, he was awarded the man of the match.

Ajaz Patel And Mitchell Starc Were Also Nominated Besides Mayank Agarwal

India-born New Zealand spinner Ajaz Patel’s name was immortalized in cricketing history in December 2021, when he picked up 10 wickets in an innings against India, becoming the third player in Tests to achieve the feat after Jim Laker and Anil Kumble. The left-arm spinner played just one Test in the month, where he picked up 14 wickets at an average of 16.07.

He picked up all 10 wickets in the first innings but was disappointed by the Kiwi batters who let his efforts go in vain as the team was bundled out for 62. In the second innings, he also picked up four wickets, including that of Mayank Agarwal and Cheteshwar Pujara. He finished with figures of 14/225, the best bowling figures in a Test match in 2021.

Ajaz Patel (Photo Credit: ICC/Twitter)
Ajaz Patel (Photo Credit: ICC/Twitter)

Mitchell Starc also had standout performances both with the bat and ball in hand as Australia retained the Ashes urn 2021/22 with two games to spare. In three games last month, he picked up as many as 14 wickets at an average of 19.64 and was more than handy with the bat, scoring 117 runs at an average of 58.50.

He set the tone for the whole series by dismissing England opener Rory Burns with the first ball of the first Test. While batting, he kept teammate Travis Head company with an innings of 35 and added 85 crucial runs for the eighth wicket.

In the second Test in Adelaide, Mitchell Starc snapped six wickets and scored 58. This included a brilliant four-wicket haul in the first innings that helped reduce England to 236, giving Australia a massive lead of 237 runs.

In the Boxing Day Test, Mitchell Starc picked two crucial wickets in the first innings, including that of England’s captain Joe Root. His innings of 24 not out helped Australia gain an 82-run lead, which proved to be enough as England was bundled out for 68. He picked up three wickets in the second innings as Australia won by an innings to retain the urn.

KL Rahul (Image Credit: Twitter)
KL Rahul (Image Credit: Twitter)
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Aakash Chopra Reckons One Can Call KL Rahul’s Resurgence As His 2nd Coming In Tests 

Aakash Chopra believes KL Rahul’s exceptional recent performances as a Test opener can be termed his second coming in the game’s longest format.

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 after his century in Centurion. Photo- AFP
KL Rahul after his century in Centurion. Photo- AFP.

Aakash Chopra Reckons KL Rahul Knows Where His Off Stump Is And Is Happy To Bide His Time

During an interaction, Aakash Chopra reflected on the reason behind KL Rahul’s turnaround as a Test opener. KL Rahul thought his Test career was over with the likes of Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill, and Rohit Sharma being preferred ahead of him.

He said: “We can, of course, call this KL Rahul 2.0. The difference, in my opinion, is the mindset or the comfort that this is how I am going to play. It takes time because the players of this era, they play all three formats, it is very difficult to understand the right template for every format.”

Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra. (Photo Source: Twitter)

The former India opener highlighted that KL Rahul has developed an excellent understanding of his off-stump.

Aakash Chopra explained: “There is a temptation to play the big shots because you can play those. But the KL Rahul we were seeing at this point, he has such a good idea about his off-stump, where to play the deliveries and how many deliveries to leave. He is happy to bide his time.”

KL Rahul has exhibited immense patience since his comeback to the Indian Test side. He has refrained from poking at deliveries outside the off-stump and played close to his body. The 29-year-old KL Rahul, who debuted in Test cricket in 2014, has played 40 matches so far and scored 2321 runs at an average of 35.16.

KL Rahul was handed a lifeline in England and he came out all guns blazing to make 84 and 26 in the first at Trent Bridge and a magnificent century in the first innings at the Lord’s.

Aakash Chopra: KL Rahul Looking Very Compact

Aakash Chopra lauded all-format player KL Rahul for showing exemplary restraint in Test cricket.

He elaborated: “That’s remarkable for someone who, when he plays T20 cricket, has the ability to hit fours and sixes off every delivery. But he is defending or leaving the same deliveries and he is looking very compact.”

Rohit Sharma
Rohit Sharma. Image Credits: Twitter

The 44-year-old concluded by saying that KL Rahul seems to have developed a better understanding of his game, much like Rohit Sharma.

Aakash Chopra observed:” The biggest change, in my opinion, he has done is to be comfortable in his own skin. Once you understand your game properly, you are not in a hurry because you are very confident. We saw the same thing with Rohit Sharma, if you see his England tour.”

KL Rahul has amassed 519 runs at a decent average of 43.25 in the six Tests he has played since the start of the England tour. He will hope to play another significant knock at Cape Town and help Team India register a maiden Test series win in South Africa.

In the 2nd Test, India was bowled out for 202 in their first innings, to which the hosts replied with 229. India then scored 266 in their second innings on a deteriorating pitch to set South Africa an imposing target of 240, which they reached with seven wickets to spare after a doggedly determined batting performance.

Virat Kohli was ruled out of the second Test against South Africa just before the start of the game because of an upper back spasm, leaving KL Rahul to lead the side in the crucial match. KL Rahul had said at the toss that Virat Kohli is expected to be available for the third and final Test from January 11 to be held in Cape Town.

KL Rahul’s life has taken a 180-degree turn over the last six months with a dramatic revival of his Test career. It was only six months ago that the keeper was nowhere near making India’s first-choice XI in Tests. In fact, the right-handed opening batter did not feature in a Test match for India for two years between 2019 and 2021.

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