Former Indian pacer Zaheer Khan has hinted at a possible change in the batting department after the Headingley Test disaster. Vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane might be axed considering his diminishing returns in the series so far.
India’s weak batting outside of the openers was exposed twice in the third Test against England. There were two collapses, the root cause of which lies in the unstable and underperforming middle-order. Ajinkya Rahane, in particular, could well make way for another batsman, as per Zaheer.
“[Cheteshwar] Pujara was under pressure but he found a way to get out of that. He did something different and he got the results. Rahane hasn’t been able to do that. I think the series has reached at such a stage where these things would be analyzed. And it’s possible that you can see a change,” the former bowler said.
Rahane’s scores in the series so far have been abysmal – 5,1,61,18,10. Apart from that solitary fifty at Lord’s, he has looked fidgety at the crease, unable to survive against the moving ball. Pujara on the other hand was also terrible in the first two matches before turning up at Headingley with a fluent 91.
“One stepped up and performed but the other doesn’t seem comfortable yet” – Zaheer Khan
Zaheer, who played in 92 Tests and picked 311 wickets, was impressed with the way Pujara batted in the second innings at Headingley. The 33-year-old looked his usual self with the defense but went one up on his aggressive game. He looked keen on scoring boundaries, which worked out in his favor.
Rahane on the other hand has looked shaky in his defense but hasn’t tried out the aggressive approach yet. He may well be at the end of his rope, as the standards he has set haven’t been met in the three Tests so far.
“Two players were under fire. One stepped up and performed but the other doesn’t seem comfortable yet. When you play for a longer period of time, you cannot just be in the team depending on the past performances. You have to meet the continuity.”
“At the same time, your role gets changed. You don’t just think about your game but need to set an example for the youngsters as a strong middle-order batsman. So, the more you progress in your career, the level of scrutiny also goes up,” Zaheer added.
India has a couple of options to replace Rahane. These include Hanuma Vihari and Suryakumar Yadav, who are waiting on the sidelines ready to pounce on the opportunity if it arises.