New Zealand Tour Of India 2021 | Sportzwiki

New Zealand Tour Of India 2021

Virat Kohli, Image Source : AP IMAGE
Virat Kohli, Image Source : AP IMAGE
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BCCI Would Request To CSA To Play A Two-Match Test Series, Meaning Virat Kohli May Pay 100th Test Against Sri Lanka

BCCI is all set to request Cricket South Africa (CSA) to postpone the forthcoming India tour by a week. A plan to that effect is being worked out soon and will be discussed during BCCI’s AGM at Kolkata on Sunday. The Indian board will contact its South African counterpart soon to discuss an appropriate alternate schedule for a series that is being planned under a strict bio-bubble after spreading of Omicron variant of Covid-19.

It was reported on Wednesday that there is a possibility of three Test matches being reduced to two while the white-ball matches remained on schedule. India and South Africa were scheduled to play three Tests, three one-dayers, and four T20 Internationals.

BCCI (File Photo| PTI)
BCCI (File Photo| PTI)

BCCI Might Request CSA To Postpone The Series By A Week

BCCI sources say they understand their commitment towards international boards and will take every possible step to safeguard their interests like was the case when India toured Australia against all odds in November last year and sent an alternate squad to Sri Lanka this year despite the spike in Covid cases.

“We might request CSA to postpone the series by a week and will then declare the schedule,” top BCCI sources said on Thursday afternoon, once again underlining the possibility of going a Test short.

If one Test is indeed removed from the schedule and India plays only two, the BCCI is likely to honour its agreement with CSA by agreeing to play a set of T20 Internationals – most likely five – next year. CSA’s financial health depends a lot on this India tour and the BCCI says it understands the implications very well along with the fact that it needs to stand with all its stakeholders.

Cricket South Africa Image Source: TWITTER/CSAOFFICIAL
Cricket South Africa Image Source: TWITTER/CSAOFFICIAL

The Indian team is playing the ongoing second Test match against New Zealand and there is little time for the BCCI and the players to sit across the table and discuss the tour. Therefore, the BCCI wants the team to finish playing the second Test without getting bothered by the hassle of thinking about the tour.

Post the Test match, the BCCI will talk to the players and explain the protocols and procedures being put in place for the tour. In all likelihood, the series will go on to include two Tests (instead of three) and the white ball matches as scheduled. The two boards could put a three-day warm-up match in place ahead of the series. If India played three Test matches in South Africa, Virat Kohli’s 100th would’ve come in Cape Town.

Virat Kohli Who Is Playing His 97Th Test May Play His 100th At Home Against Sri Lanka In Home Ground If 2 Tests Happen In South Africa

However, should they now play only two Test matches in South Africa, skipper Virat Kohli – who is playing his 97th Test match at the Wankhede against New Zealand – will play his 100th against Sri Lanka at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore, a city that’s practically become his second home for representing Royal Challengers Bangalore in IPL.

That’s a rarity because not many Indian cricketers who achieved this feat had the opportunity to play the 100th Test at their home ground. Former India great Dilip Vengsarkar played his 100th Test at the Wankhede.

Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli[photo: Twitter]
The first two Tests were scheduled in Johannesburg and Centurion, a drive away from each other while the third Test and the white-ball matches were scheduled in Cape Town and Paarl, again within a short driving distance. If one Test now gets cancelled, it is likely that India will play the two Test matches at Johannesburg and Centurion and then fly to Cape Town only for the white ball matches.

Meanwhile, in the 2nd and final Test against New Zealand, opener Mayank Agarwal scored an unbeaten ton but apart from Shubman Gill (44), none of the other batsmen could score more than 20. In fact, Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara could not even score. India who opted to bat first is nearing 200 runs losing 4 wickets in about 60 overs after the first session was washed out due to rain.

Ravichandran Ashwin
Ravichandran Ashwin. (Photo Source: Twitter)
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Ravichandran Ashwin Should Be Considered As One Of India’s Very Good All-Rounders, Says Craig McMillan

Ravichandran Ashwin has made tremendous growth, not only with his bowling but also with the bat in his hand. Besides being India’s third-highest wicket-taker in Tests, off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has also scored 2755 runs from 80 Tests.

Now while those may not be staggering numbers, the fact that Ravichandran Ashwin has hit five Test centuries holds him in good stead. Even in the second innings of the Kanpur Test against New Zealand, it was his partnership with Shreyas Iyer, that bailed India out of a spot on Day 4, where he scored a crucial 32.

Ravichandran Ashwin
Ravichandran Ashwin (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

Ravichandran Ashwin Should Be Considered One Of India’s Very Good All Rounders- Craig McMillan

While the legendary Kapil Dev still stands out as India’s best all-rounder of all time, a former New Zealand all-rounder Craig McMillan feels Ravichandran Ashwin isn’t too far behind. When it comes to Indian all-rounders, not many names come to mind except probably Ajit Agarkar, Irfan Pathan, Hardik Pandya, and Ravindra Jadeja, but Craig McMillan reckons Ravichandran Ashwin will already go down as one of India’s finest in that category.

“I think perhaps that R Ashwin doesn’t get enough credit. He is not only a great spinner but an all-rounder because he has a number of Test hundreds as well.

“And most of it has come – when you think of the one against England earlier this year – came at an important time in Chennai when India was under the pump, behind in the game. Ashwin scored a hundred and turns the game and takes wickets,” Craig McMillan said.

Craig McMillan © Getty Images
Craig McMillan © Getty Images

“We always talk about the great Indian all-rounders, and Kapil Dev is right at the top of the tree, but I firmly think that after him, with the numbers he is achieving, Ravi Ashwin should be considered one of India’s very good allrounder.”

Ravichandran Ashwin, who wasn’t considered from all four Test matches in England, returned to the format grabbing six scalps in the 1st Kanpur Test against NZ where he surpassed Harbhajan Singh to be placed only next to Anil Kumble and Kapil Dev in the leading wicket-takers column.

As India heads into the second Test in Kanpur, Ravichandran Ashwin is eyeing three huge records, including achieving 50 Test wickets for the fourth time in a year and chasing Anil Kumble’s 300 wickets at home, the most by an Indian bowler.

Ravichandran Ashwin Needs 16 Scalps More To Overtake Legendary Pacer All Rounder Kapil Dev’s 434 Scalps

The legend of Ravichandran Ashwin continues to grow as India’s premier off-spinner became the country’s third-highest wicket-taker in Tests surpassing the 40-year veteran off-spinner Harbhajan Singh when he grabbed his 418th Test scalp on Day 5 of the Kanpur Test. The 35-year-old Ravichandran Ashwin took his 419th wicket in his 80th Test to surpass Harbhajan Singh (417 in 103 Tests) at an excellent average of 24.49.

Former India skipper Kapil Dev (Photo | PTI)
Former India skipper Kapil Dev (Photo | PTI)

Ravichandran Ashwin claimed three wickets in both innings of the Kanpur Test and also made useful contributions of 38 and 32 with the bat. He is now next only to the legendary Anil Kumble(619 wickets in 132 Tests) and Kapil Dev and looks set to go second, needing another 16 wickets to overtake Kapil Dev (434 scalps in 131 Tests).

Ravichandran Ashwin recently made a successful comeback to India’s T20I squad after a gap of four years, during the T20I World Cup in the UAE. He has continued the good work in the home T20I series against New Zealand.

Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin has played 5 T20Is since his comeback in the limited-overs format after a gap of 4 years. He has picked 9 scalps at an average of 11.66 and an economy rate of 5.25, and a strike rate of 13.3.

VVS Laxman. (File Photo: IANS)
VVS Laxman. (File Photo: IANS)
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VVS Laxman Shocked At Sudden Announcement That The Trio Of Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja And Ishant Sharma Are Injured Before 2nd Test

VVS Laxman expressed surprise over the news that the trio of batsman Ajinkya Rahane, spin all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, and pacer Ishant Sharma have been injured and will take no part in the second Test between India and New Zealand at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium.

Former Indian batsman VVS Laxman feels the development has to have taken place on the morning of the first day of the 2nd day since captain Virat Kohli, who rested in the 1st drawn Test said nothing about it during the press conference on the eve of the Test match.

VVS Laxman (Image Credit: Twitter)
VVS Laxman (Image Credit: Twitter)

VVS Laxman Shocked At Sudden Announcement That The Trio Of Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, And Ishant Sharma Are Injured

Former Indian batsman VVS Laxman was completely caught off-guard by the three sudden injuries in the Indian camp ahead of the second Test against New Zealand in Mumbai. Ishant Sharma dislocated his little finger on Day 5 of the first Test match. Ravindra Jadeja too hurt his forearm, which after scans, showed a decent amount of swelling. Ajinkya Rahane, meanwhile, injured his hamstring while fielding on the last day of the first Test.

“Did something happen this morning? But Virat Kohli said nothing about in the press conference yesterday. It is obviously a big blow. Jadeja was injured in that England series and Axar Patel came in and he was named Player of the Series,” VVS Laxman said.

“The way he bowled was just fantastic to see. And then you saw Shreyas Iyer, who came in place of Virat Kohli. He straightaway stamped his authority under tremendous pressure. So I guess India have got very good players who can replace players who are missing due to injuries,” VVS Laxman said.

There will be no Ishant Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja or Ajinkya Rahane for India. (BCCI)
There will be no Ishant Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, or Ajinkya Rahane for India. (BCCI)

The former India batter feels the injury woes make things easier for captain Virat Kohli, for whom picking India’s XI shall become easier. VVS Laxman named replacements for Ajinkya Rahane and Ishant Sharma but he feels it remains to be seen as to who replaces all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja with a stacked squad of 15 to pick from.

“It goes without saying that Mayank Agarwal might continue to play. There is no reason to change the batting line-up. Virat Kohli will come in place of Ajinkya Rahane. Obviously Siraj will come in place of Ishant Sharma but who will replace Ravindra Jadeja? Will it be an extra spinner because we know Jayant Yadav is in the squad, or will it be a fast bowler to a batter to strengthen the batting. We will have to wait and see,” informed VVS Laxman.

Eventually, Jayant Yadav replaced Ravindra Jadeja. Mayank Agarwal and Shubman Gill are batting at the moment as India opted to bat first in the 2nd Test. VVS Laxman correctly predicted as Virat Kohli and Mohammed Siraj came in place of Ajinkya Rahane and Ishant Sharma. The first session was wiped out as the poor outfield conditions ensured no play was possible. There will be two sessions on the first day of the Mumbai Test.

Jayant Yadav Returned To Indian Team Playing XI After A Gap Of 4 Years

Jayant Yadav returned to the team after 4 years, as he played his last Test against Australia in 2017.  Jayant Yadav made his Test debut against England in Vizag in 2016. So far he has taken 11 wickets in 4 Tests. He picked 9 wickets in 3 Tests against England and 2 scalps in a solitary Test against Australia way back in 2017.

Jayant Yadav has not played any ODI since 2017. A few days after debuting in ODI, he made his debut in Tests too in India’s home Tests against England– a five-Test series. The Haryana all-rounder impressed straight away by making notable contributions with both bat and ball in hand in the Tests. In his debut Test, he scored 35 and unbeaten 27 runs in addition to picking up 4 wickets.

Jayant Yadav made his maiden Test century in the company of Virat Kohli, becoming the first Indian batsman to score a Test hundred from No. 9 AFP
Jayant Yadav made his maiden Test century in the company of Virat Kohli, becoming the first Indian batsman to score a Test hundred from No. 9 AFP.

It was followed by his maiden fifty-55 and four wickets in the following game. In his third Test, Jayant Yadav became the first Indian batsman to score a Test century at No.9. In February, he played one more Test which was against Australia before being dropped.  He has 228 runs averaging 45.6 in 4 Tests besides picking 11 scalps averaging 33.36.

Zaheer Khan. Image-Sportstar
Zaheer Khan. Image-Sportstar
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Zaheer Khan Feels There Is More Pressure On Cheteshwar Pujara Than Ajinkya Rahane But Either Of The Two Have To Be Dropped For 2nd Test

Zaheer Khan opened up on India’s selection headache ahead of the second Test against New Zealand in Mumbai. Captain Virat Kohli is set to return to lead the team, and it remains to be seen who he replaces in the playing XI. The return of skipper Virat Kohli for the Mumbai Test match between India and New Zealand is set to create a major selection dilemma for the Indian team management.

Shreyas Iyer, who made his debut in the first Test match at Kanpur, scored a century in the first innings and a half-century in the second to bail the hosts out of pressure situations on both occasions. India finished on the top of the game in the 1st drawn Test despite not picking the last New Zealand wicket.

Zaheer Khan (Photo credit should read Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images)
Zaheer Khan (Photo credit should read Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images)

Zaheer Khan: Shreyas Iyer Made Good Use Of His Opportunity

With Kanpur Test debutant Shreyas Iyer making himself almost undroppable, Virat Kohli is left with a major selection headache in his comeback Test. With the dwindling form of senior players like Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara, the axe could fall on either one of them.

Former Indian pacer Zaheer Khan reckons Cheteshwar Pujara is under more pressure than Ajinkya Rahane going into the match. Zaheer Khan reckons Cheteshwar Pujara might have to sacrifice his batting position for the team.

Zaheer Khan said, “The middle-order headache for this Test has come after Iyer’s fantastic debut performance. Iyer made good use of his opportunity. Virat Kohli is sure to come in, so there needs to be space made in the middle-order.”‘

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

Zaheer Khan added, “I think there is a bit more pressure on Pujara and that is not entirely performance-based. Have seen in previous instances that often an opener gets dropped. They might go in a direction and ask whether Pujara can open in these conditions, but there is no denying that there needs to be some shuffling.”

Meanwhile, Shreyas Iyer became the hero of the 1st Kanpur Test as he smashed his maiden century (105) on Day 2 of the first Test and again stole the show with his knock of 65, helping India in a position of command on Day 4 of the Kanpur Test. New Zealand managed to survive by the barest of margins on the last day of the first Test against India after a gritty performance from their lower-order batters ensured that visitors walked away with a draw.

Zaheer Khan: Either Cheteshwar Pujara Or Ajinkya Rahane Have To Be Dropped

The 43-year-old also asserted that Shreyas Iyer has to play at his home venue, and either an opener (Mayank Agarwal/ Shubman Gill), Cheteshwar Pujara, or Ajinkya Rahane must be dropped to make way for Virat Kohli.

“Iyer should definitely play, there is absolutely no question about it. They either have to drop an opener or drop either one of Pujara or Rahane,” said Zaheer Khan.

Despite leading the team in the Kanpur Test, there are huge questions marks on Ajinkya Rahane’s form after another poor outing in the first game. In India’s tour of England earlier this year, he scored just 109 runs in 7 innings. Ajinkya Rahane’s overall batting average in Test cricket has fallen below 40 in recent times.

Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara (AFP Photo)
Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara (AFP Photo)

There is debate over Cheteshwar Pujara’s place in the team, too, as the veteran Indian batter has not scored a century in Test cricket for almost three years. However, Cheteshwar Pujara had performed much better in England and his knock at Oval was crucial in helping India take a series lead.

While Ajinkya Rahane has not scored a century since December 2020- a memorable 112 against Australia, Cheteshwar Pujara hasn’t scored a ton since he made 193 against Australia in January 2019. Ajinkya Rahane is averaging just 20.35 this year from 12 Tests, while Cheteshwar Pujara has done slightly better at 30.85 from the same number of games in 2021 but had a horrid time in 2020, averaging only 20.38 in 4 Tests.

Cheteshwar Pujara, who scored 26 and 22 in Kanpur, was dismissed in a similar manner as he was criticized for having a technical flaw in his game. Mayank Agarwal managed scores of 13 and 17 in the Kanpur Test. On the other hand, Ajinkya Rahane scored 35 and 4 in the 1st Test. One of the trios has to make way for Virat Kohli, who will return in the 2nd Test.

KS Bharat keep wickets in place of Wriddhiman Saha on Day 3 of Kanpur Test (Image Source: Twitter)
KS Bharat keep wickets in place of Wriddhiman Saha on Day 3 of Kanpur Test (Image Source: Twitter)
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KS Bharat May Debut And Open In The 2nd Mumbai Test, Backed By MSK Prasad

KS Bharat did well behind the stumps while substituting for Wriddhiman Saha in the first Test against New Zealand in Kanpur, is in line to make his debut in the second Test, which begins at the Wankhede Stadium on Friday.

While Wriddhiman Saha overcame a stiff neck to score a fighting half-century (61 not out) in the second innings at Green Park, there’s still uncertainty over his fitness and availability for the second Test.

India Test wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha (Photo | PTI)
India Test wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha (Photo | PTI)

KS Bharat Substituted Wriddhiman Saha And Did Well, So He May Debut In The 2nd Mumbai Test

On Wednesday, India’s bowling coach Paras Mhambrey said that the Indian team management is yet to take a call on the availability of Wriddhiman Saha.

“We will take a call closer to the game. Physios are in constant touch with (India coach) Rahul (Dravid) and (India captain) Virat (Kohli).

Paras Mhambrey
Paras Mhambrey

The prospect of playing a Test in front of his home crowd at the Wankhede Stadium on Friday – after an eight-and-a-half-year Test career – should have got Ajinkya Rahane excited. Instead, the Mumbaikar is staring at a future as gloomy as the Mumbai weather was on Wednesday.

“Closer to the game, we can take a call on what condition he is in. What Saha did in the last game was a fabulous effort. It was painful to bat, but he raised his hands and delivered for the team,” Mhambrey told reporters.

The 37-year-old Wriddhiman Saha has amassed 1313 runs in 39 Tests averaging 29.84. He has 3 tons and 6 fifties. Meanwhile, Andhra Pradesh-born KS Bharat was immensely impressive in the first innings. He affected three key dismissals and played a massive role in helping India come back in the first innings.

Regular keeper Wriddhiman Saha experienced stiffness in his neck, and as a result, he didn’t keep much. Wriddhiman Saha suffered a sprain on his neck before the start of play.

KS Bharat Is Actually Natural Specialist Opener: MSK Prasad

Indian thinktank believes that India can overcome all their selection headaches for this game by giving a Test debut to KS Bharat by sending him as an opener with Shubman Gill. This move will allow India to fit in all their middle-order batsmen – the struggling Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, skipper Virat Kohli and Kanpur centurion debutant Shreyas Iyer.

This development will leave behind the hard decision to drop Cheteshwar Pujara or Ajinkya Rahane to another day. However, to expect KS Bharat to open in his very first Test, against the likes of Tim Southee, Kyle Jamieson, and perhaps Neil Wagner, would be asking him to go through a baptism by fire.

KS Bharat will keep the wickets for India on Day five© AFP
KS Bharat will keep the wickets for India on Day five© AFP.

“It’s not a new thing to him. He’s actually a natural, specialist opener. He got his triple hundred for Andhra while opening the innings. He’s scored 90% of his runs as an opener. Given an opportunity, he can open for India,” former India chief selector and ex-stumper MSK Prasad said.

MSK Prasad, who played six Tests for India, pointed out that KS Bharat had “scored three hundred in days’ cricket” for India A too. Like everyone, MSK Prasad, who has observed KS Bharat’s growth closely both at Andhra and as a chairman of the national selection committee, was impressed by the 28-year-old’s neat glove-work, barring the odd mistake, in Kanpur.

“His ‘keeping was really good in the first Test. It’s not easy to keep wickets in Kanpur as the ball stays low and we have three kinds of spinners. If he gets the chance he’ll grab it,” Prasad said.

In the past, KS Bharat has opened for Andhra in the Ranji Trophy and has scored 4283 runs in 78 first-class games averaging 37.24, with nine hundred and 23 fifties, and even a triple hundred (308) under his belt. With doubts over veteran 37-year-old Wriddhiman Saha’s batting form and fitness, a Test debut for KS Bharat should not be far away. He is yet to play an international match for India in any format.

Cricket South Africa Image Source: TWITTER/CSAOFFICIAL
Cricket South Africa Image Source: TWITTER/CSAOFFICIAL
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Amid Omicron Scare BCCI Puts Team Selection For South Africa Tour On Hold – Reports

BCCI has put a hold on the selection meeting for the upcoming all-format tour of South Africa. It is learned that BCCI is awaiting clearance from the government before going ahead with the tour. South Africa has been identified as an ‘at-risk country’ after the emergence of the new Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus.

The selection meeting was planned for just after the first Test against New Zealand in Kanpur. The players who have been rested for the ongoing home series against New Zealand were supposed to undergo a five-day quarantine before entering the bubble for South Africa on the night of December 8. The players have not been intimated yet about the exact itinerary.

BCCI (File Photo| PTI)
BCCI (File Photo| PTI)

BCCI Puts Team Selection Meeting For South Africa Tour On Hold

Players like Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah, Rishabh Pant, Mohammed Shami, KL Rahul, and Shardul Thakur are waiting for clear communication from BCCI about joining the bubble. After the end of the T20I series, they were informed they would have to be in quarantine in Mumbai by December 3.

KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma---Image: Twitter
KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma—Image: Twitter

Any bio-bubble is only as effective as those inside it make it. During the England tour this year, the bio-bubble was breached for which better discipline should be maintained this time around.  In September, there was a minor outbreak in the Indian camp when the team was touring England for a 5-match Test series. As a result, the fifth Test had to be cancelled and rescheduled for the next year.

The Indian cricket team is scheduled to play three Tests, three ODIs, and three T20Is in South Africa from December 17 to January 26. For now, CSA continues to build a strict bio-bubble for the tour and has proper protocols in place. India will play three ODIs in South Africa for the first time since their 5-1 series win in 2017-18.

Historically, India didn’t have a great record in bilateral series in that part of the world. However, they did qualify for the final when the World Cup was played in 2003.

South Africa Assured The Touring Indian Team Will Be Kept In The Best Of BioSecure Bubbles

The latest development comes on the day South Africa’s ministry of international relations and cooperation issued a statement thanking BCCI for letting the India ‘A’ team stay back to complete the series in Bloemfontein. In the statement, the ministry also assured that the Indian team will be kept in the best of bio-secure bubbles.

“South Africa will take all precautions necessary to ensure the health and safety of the Indian teams. A full bio-secure environment will be established around both the South African and Indian ‘A’ teams as well as the two national teams,” the statement read.

India's Tour Of South Africa : India is supposed to tour South Africa in December 2021 © Getty
India’s Tour Of South Africa: India is supposed to tour South Africa in December 2021 © Getty

However, BCCI isn’t committing anything yet.

“Cricket South Africa and their government are doing everything to ensure the tour goes on. But BCCI is awaiting a nod from the central government. Things will be clear in a couple of days. The players too need to be assured of the arrangements. The board doesn’t want a repeat of what happened in Manchester when an outbreak within the camp got the players traveling with their families jittery,” a top BCCI official said.

Former India batter VVS Laxman will do the formalities to join the NCA as cricket head only after the Test series against New Zealand. VVS Laxman is currently completing his broadcast commitments.

India, A tour of South Africa, will continue, the detection of a new Covid-19 variant in the country notwithstanding. The visiting team, currently based in Bloemfontein, has had a series of meetings with the Cricket South Africa (CSA) officials and the local medical team and has decided to complete the three-match series.

The Indian A team is presently in South Africa for three unofficial Tests. With one of the Tests being completed, the team is still in the country, and the unofficial Tests will continue. The ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe was cancelled, and South Africa’s ODI series against the Netherlands has been postponed.

Ajinkya Rahane during the Test series in England. Pic: Getty Images
Ajinkya Rahane during the Test series in England. Pic: Getty Images
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Dinesh Karthik Says Ajinkya Rahane Getting Dropped For Mumbai Test “Will Ease Some Of The Pressure On Him”

Dinesh Karthik feels Ajinkya Rahane getting dropped from the Indian team for the Mumbai Test will help ease some of the pressure off him.

With Ajinkya Rahane struggling for form with the bat, speculation is rife that his place in Team India’s playing XI is in danger for the second and final Test against New Zealand at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.

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

Dinesh Karthik: Pressure Will Obviously Be On Ajinkya Rahane After Shreyas Iyer’s Excellent Performances In The Draw 1st Test

Ajinkya Rahane posted scores of 35 and 4 in the drawn opening Test in Kanpur to continue his poor run this year. The 33-year-old batter has an unenviable average of 19.6 in 2021. According to Indian cricketer Dinesh Karthik, Ajinkya Rahane getting dropped from the team for the Mumbai Test will help ease some of the pressure off him.

“With Shreyas Iyer coming in and doing so well, I think the pressure will obviously be on Rahane and he might be the one to be dropped. This has happened during a tour of South Africa when Rahane was dropped for a game before he again came back. There is no harm if Rahane’s dropped for a game,” Dinesh Karthik said in a discussion.

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

“Iyer has literally taken India to a safe zone in this Test on his own. He’s done really well. And It’s not like Rahane has not been among the runs in 1-2 Tests. It has been going on for a long time now. I don’t think it’s such a bad thing for him to be dropped. It will ease some of the pressure on him,” Dinesh Karthik added.

Ajinkya Rahane has had a horror run with the bat over the last year, which has seen his average dip to under 40. In fact, he averages a mere 19.57 in 12 Tests in 2021, his lowest average in a year since debuting in 2013.

Dinesh Karthik: Cheteshwar Pujara Hasn’t Scored A Ton In A Long Time

Cheteshwar Pujara has done slightly better at 30.43 from the same number of games in 2021 but had a horrid time in 2020, averaging only 20.38 in 4 Tests.

“I do think a similar sort of baggage is there on (Cheteshwar) Pujara too. He hasn’t got a hundred in a long time. And since the start of 2020, he too has averaged in the mid-20s. These are two players who have set their standards very high. They would know they haven’t performed according to expectations.”

Cheteshwar Pujara
Cheteshwar Pujara[photo: Twitter]
Cheteshwar Pujara, who scored 26 and 22 in Kanpur, was dismissed in a similar manner as he was criticized for having a technical flaw in his game. Mayank Agarwal managed scores of 13 and 17 in the Kanpur Test. On other hand, Ajinkya Rahane scored 35 and 4 in the 1st Test. As a result, one of the trios has to make way for Virat Kohli, who will return in the 2nd Test.

While Ajinkya Rahane has not scored a century since December 2020- a memorable 112 against Australia, Cheteshwar Pujara hasn’t scored a ton since he made 193 against Australia in January 2019.

Meanwhile, Shreyas Iyer became the hero of the 1st Test as he smashed his maiden century (105) on Day 2 of the first Test and again stole the show with his knock of 65, helping India in a position of command on Day 4 of the Kanpur Test.

New Zealand managed to survive by the barest of margins on the last day of the first Test against India after a gritty performance from their lower-order batters ensured that visitors walked away with a draw.

India's Ishant Sharma prepares to ball during the third day of the second Test cricket match of a two-match series between India and Bangladesh at the Eden Gardens cricket stadium in Kolkata on November 24, 2019. (Photo by Dibyangshu SARKAR / AFP) / IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE
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Steve Harmison Couldn’t Understand Why Ishant Sharma Played Again vs New Zealand In The 1st Test After Failure In England

Steve Harmison, the former England pacer, couldn’t understand why pacer Ishant Sharma was picked after his performance in England after the first Test versus Kiwis ended in a thrilling draw.

Even a couple of years back, Ishant Sharma was India’s most improved bowler. In the first few years of his Test career, barring a five-wicket-haul on debut, the unforgettable spell at Sydney to Ricky Ponting and a match-winning seven-for at Lord’s came to mind when one thought of Ishant Sharma. But in the last few years, the India pacer had turned a new leaf and emerged to be a part of India’s famous five-pronged pace attack.

Ishant Sharma
Ishant Sharma[Image-Twitter]

Steve Harmison Couldn’t Understand Why Ishant Sharma Played After Failure In England And Wants Mohammed Siraj Replacing Him In The 2nd Test

However, if his performances in the last few Test matches are to be considered, it reflects a throwback to his initial years. While the rest of the pacers have gone from strength to strength, Ishant Sharma has struggled to pick up wickets. After a match-haul of nine wickets against Bangladesh in the Day/Night Test in 2019, the maximum Ishant Sharma has claimed in a match is five wickets.

Ishant Sharma’s lacklustre show was again on display during the 1st Kanpur Test in New Zealand, where the India pacer went wicketless in both innings. Reflecting on the 33-year-old pacer’s reaction, former England pacer Steve Harmison has said that he is baffled seeing Ishant Sharma play another Test match for India, and backed Mohammed Siraj to replace him in the Playing XI for the second Test in Mumbai.

“For me, both seamers were also below par in the first Test match, for the life of me I don’t understand how Ishant Sharma got another game of Test cricket after what he did in England, so for me, I’d bring [Mohammed] Siraj in for him. The three spinners bowled well enough, so they’ll be the only changes I make,” Steve Harmison said his YouTube channel.

Steve Harmison
Steve Harmison. Image-Twitter

In the World Test Championship final against eventual winners New Zealand in Southampton, Ishant Sharma picked up three wickets, all in the first innings, and went without any in the second. Next, he played the Lord’s Test, where Ishant Sharma grabbed three and two wickets in the first and second innings, respectively.

At Leeds, where England hammered India by an innings and 76 runs, Ishant Sharma again had gone wicketless, which means the India pacer has now failed to pick up a wicket in his last two Test matches.

Mohammed Siraj In Line To Replace Ishant Sharma In The 2nd Test

Ishant Sharma has so far picked 311 scalps in 105 Tests averaging a high 32.41. Ishant Sharma has picked 14 scalps in 8 Tests in 2021 at a high average of 32.71.

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

Mohammed Siraj, the 26-year-old pacer, signed off the recently concluded Australia 4 match Test series as the highest wicket-taker for his team India, claiming 13 wickets in 3 Tests, including one five-wicket haul. He picked 3 scalps against England, too, playing 2 Tests averaging 22.67. He also played all of the 4 away Tests against hosts England, claiming 14 scaps in 4 Tests averaging 30.71. He has already picked 30 scalps in 9 Tests.

India and New Zealand will clash swords with each other in the 2nd and final Test match on 3rd December 2021. Former England pacer Steve Harmison found it surprising that the Indian team persisted with Ishant Sharma despite how he performed in the recent tour of England. Steve Harmison mentioned that Mohammed Siraj would be the best replacement for the senior pacer.
The first Test ended in a thrilling Day 5 draw as New Zealand hung on to a solitary wicket and managed to scrape a draw in the final few minutes.
IND vs NZ: Rachin Ravindra faced a total of 91 balls.© Instagram
IND vs NZ: Rachin Ravindra faced a total of 91 balls.© Instagram
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Rachin Ravindra Was A Bit Nervous Bowling Wise But Defiance With Ajaz Patel For The 10th Wicket Ensured A Draw

Rachin Ravindra, New Zealand’s Indian-origin spinner who played a pivotal role in helping his side draw the first Test against India, said he was quite nervous about how the game would pan out as far as his bowling was concerned.

The 22-year-old Rachin Ravindra, in the company of Indian-born Ajaz Patel (2 off 23 balls), held a 91-ball vigil that yielded 18 runs for him to save the match for his side, which was nine down in pursuit of 284 on the final day.

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

Rachin Ravindra Was A Bit Nervous Bowling Wise

Ajaz Patel, who was born in Mumbai, played for the first time in the country of his birth. He also picked up three wickets in the game even though Rachin Ravindra went wicket-less. The 33-year-old Ajaz Patel interviewed Rachin Ravindra for the New Zealand cricket team’s official Twitter handle and recalled his own Test debut.

“I remember my my first Test match, I was really nervous, and my hands were shaking when I first got the ball. How was it for you?” Patel asked.

Rachin Ravindra bowls on Day 1 of the first Test at Kanpur (Photo | AFP)
Rachin Ravindra bowls on Day 1 of the first Test at Kanpur (Photo | AFP)

Rachin Ravindra candidly admitted to having nerves of his own.

“I felt a bit nervous bowling wise. We were about four down in first innings when I was next, so definitely felt a few butterflies (that time), but I think after a few balls, I did what I do. Luckily it ended up okay,” said Wellington-based player.

Rachin Ravindra has already a lot of attention for his Indian roots, and his first name is inspired by Indian greats Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. The youngster said he enjoyed playing in front of Indian fans.

“Being able to play in India in front of crazy fans. Glad to have done that. My mum and dad have been such big influences on my career. I am sure that they are proud,” said Ravindra.

Needing just one wicket to take a 1-0 lead in the series, the Indian bowlers could not breach the defenses of Ravindra and last man Ajaz Patel as the game ended in a draw. New Zealand all-rounder Rachin Ravindra said he felt “big relief” when the Kiwis managed to survive by the barest of margins on the last day of the first Test against India.

Rachin Ravindra And Ajaz Patel’s 10th Wicket Unbeaten Partnership In NZ’s 2nd Innings Helped Team Salvage A Thrilling Draw

Rachin Ravindra faced a total of 91 balls, while Ajaz Patel supported him by blocking almost everything in his path.

“We did it together bro,” he said, sharing a smile with Patel.

Rachin Ravindra and Ajaz Patel
Rachin Ravindra and Ajaz Patel. (Photo Source: Twitter/BLACKCAPS)

Later, in another video posted by New Zealand Cricket, Rachin Ravindra said the partnership with Ajaz Patel was unforgettable.

“I think I was actually alright in the end, I knew my process, my training, and I backed myself to do it. You are kind of pretty focussed, taking in the crowd, you know, how loud they were.  It was quite nerve-wracking. I guess we (he and Patel) somehow managed our nerves together. It’s a moment I will never forget,” he added.

Mumbai-born Ajaz Patel (2 off 23 balls) and Karnataka-born Rachin Ravindra (18 not out off 91 balls) consumed 8.4 overs after the fall of the ninth wicket to keep New Zealand on an even keel in the two-match series.

A lot of credit should also go to night-watchman Will Somerville (36 off 110 balls), who first played the entire fifth morning to raise visions of the improbable draw. The second and final Test of the ongoing series will be played in Mumbai from December 3.

India 345 (Iyer 105, Gill 52, Jadeja 50, Southee 5-69, Jamieson 3-91) and 234 for 7 declared. (Iyer 65, Saha 61, Jamieson 3-40, Southee 3-75) drew with New Zealand 296 (Latham 95, Young 89, Axar 5-62, Ashwin 3-82) and 165 for 9 (Latham 52, Jadeja 4-40, Ashwin 3-35)

VVS Laxman. (File Photo: IANS)
VVS Laxman. (File Photo: IANS)
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VVS Laxman Disappointed With India’s Batting In The 1st Test And Felt India Should Have Declared Earlier

VVS Laxman, a disappointed former Indian cricketer, pointed out an area of concern for India that Rahul Dravid and Vikram Rathour need to address following the culmination of the Kanpur Test against New Zealand.

On Monday, former Indian cricketer VVS Laxman pointed out a key area that Team India needs to address before the second Test against New Zealand, which begins on December 3 in Mumbai. Disappointed with the effort of the top-order batting line-up in the Kanpur opener, VVS Laxman wants coach Rahul Dravid and batting coach Vikram Rathour to look closely.

VVS Laxman (Image Credit: Twitter)
VVS Laxman (Image Credit: Twitter)

VVS Laxman: Disappointed With Indian Test Team’s Top Order, Particularly Cheteshwar Pujara Who Repeated His Mistakes

India’s top order (1-4), comprising two senior batters in Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara, along with openers Mayank Agarwal and Shubman Gill, averaged only 21.25 in the Kanpur Test. This is the second time in 2021 that the Indian top order has averaged this low in a Test at home since 2010, the other being against England in Ahmedabad, where the batters combined to average 16.50 – both are among the top five in the period.

VVS Laxman, Indian Test batting legend, was left disappointed, particularly with Cheteshwar Pujara, who scored 26 and 22 in Kanpur, for the manner of his dismissals, pointing out a technical flaw in his game. Mayank Agarwal managed scores of 13 and 17 in the Kanpur Test. On other hand, Ajinkya Rahane scored 35 and 4 in the 1st Test, and one of the trios has to make way for Virat Kohli, who will return in the 2nd Test.

“One thing I am disappointed with this Indian Test team after this match is their batting, especially their top order, and it needs to be addressed before the next Test. It’s not about getting out but how they got out. Pujara in the second innings, if you see the dismissal, it’s almost a repeat of the same mistakes, ” said VVS Laxman.

Rahul Dravid and Cheteshwar Pujara. (Image Source: Twitter)
Rahul Dravid and Cheteshwar Pujara. (Image Source: Twitter)

“And India is playing this Test match after a long break, so it is expected from professionals to rectify their mistake and introspect on what went wrong and continue to do what was working for you. Unfortunately, a lot of those mistakes were because of technical flaws. And that’s something I’m sure that Rahul and Vikram Rathour will look very closely,” he told Star Sports.

In both scenarios, it was debutant Shreyas Iyer who revived India’s innings. In the first innings, he scored a record 105 off 171 to help India post a total of 345. In the second innings, he scored a gutsy 65, and together with Wriddhiman Saha, who scored an unbeaten 61, the pair helped India set a mighty target of 284.

VVS Laxman: India Should Have Declared A Few Overs Earlier

VVS Laxman also pointed out that India should have declared a few overs earlier, which he felt would have made the difference as New Zealand would have struggled with spin coming into play. New Zealand was four for one when bad light stopped play, chasing a daunting victory target of 284 on a worn-out track. Opener Will Young was given lbw to Ravichandran Ashwin, which could have been reversed, but the batsman was late to review the decision.

“Yes, you wanted to get to a score which was above 274. But we all know that the last few overs are very very tough for any batsman however established he is. So I definitely feel that that probably should have bowled five overs more. That would would have been the difference. But having said that, today, the bowlers did stick to their task.”

India Test wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha (Photo | PTI)
India Test wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha (Photo | PTI)

Wriddhiman Saha roared back to form with 61 not out as India declared their second innings at 234 for 7 to set New Zealand a target of 284 runs to win the series opener. The 37-year-old Wriddhiman Saha has amassed 1313 runs in 39 Tests averaging 29.84. He has 3 tons and 6 fifties.

The fifty was Wriddhiman Saha’s sixth in Test cricket and first since August 2017. The 37-year-old, who didn’t keep wickets on Day 3 due to a stiff neck, was in visible pain throughout his knock. Indian spinners, led by Ravindra Jadeja in the 2nd innings, put up one of their most persevering performances in recent times.

Still, Mumbai-born Ajaz Patel (2 off 23 balls) and Karnataka-born Rachin Ravindra (18 not out off 91 balls) consumed 8.4 overs after the fall of the ninth wicket to keep New Zealand on an even keel in the two-match series. A lot of credit should also go to night-watchman Will Somerville (36 off 110 balls), who played the entire fifth morning first to raise visions of the improbable draw.

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