With every passing Test, there is a growing chorus to pump in more young blood in the Indian cricket team and drop a few seniors, who are lacking the spark and hunger to perform consistently.
The trend continued after the just-concluded drwan Test against New Zealand in Kanpur, where the youngsters — Shreyas Iyer, Shubhman Gill, Axar Patel and K.S. Bharat — impressed all with their performances, while senior pros like Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwer Pujara and Ishant Sharma failed to make a mark.
India were in desperate need of one wicket and New Zealand had to play nine overs – in front of the deadly spin trio of Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel and Ravindra Jadeja – to save the Test. And, what happened at the end was an extraordinary effort by the visitors, who saved the match despite all the efforts by the Indian bowlers.
Ajaz Patel and Rachin Ravindra stood tall, faced all the deliveries and didn’t give anything to the Indian bowlers. The duo showed great composure towards the end of a thrilling Test to ensure New Zealand eked out a draw, which was nothing less than a victory for the visitors on Monday.
As the match came to an end, questions are now being raised on the future of India’s senior players like Ajinkya Rahane and Ishant Sharma, who failed miserably in home conditions.
So, is it the end of road for Rahane and Ishant?
A lot is expected from Rahane whenever he walks into the middle, but the calm-headed batsman has found it difficult to show consistency, a trait which is expected from a middle-order batsman, and a Test specialist.
The stand-in Test captain of India had an ordinary outing with the bat in the first Test against New Zealand, scoring 35 and 4, respectively, in both innings. And it’s not about this match only, as Rahane has been struggling for quite a while now.
Barring his match-winning century against Australia at the MCG in 2020, he doesn’t have too many impactful knocks under his belt and there have been calls to drop him from the Test squad.
IANS had earlier reported that with so many young talents making their mark and competing for a place in the side, the Indian cricket team is spoilt for choice in terms of picking the squad for the future tours.
And it is now believed that Rahane and Ishant will find it difficult to get a place in the playing XI in the next Test in Mumbai scheduled to begin on December 3, in which skipper Virat Kohli will make a comeback.
Vice-captain Rahane might still get a chance, but Ishant’s future looks bleak.
Debutant Shreyas Iyer grabbed his opportunity with both hands in the first Test. Batting in the middle order, the 26-year-old hit a fantastic century on his Test debut. However, it will be interesting to see whether Iyer retains his place in the side when Virat comes back for the next Test, as he was never among the first XI preferences had it not been for K.L. Rahul’s injury.
Just to ponder the readers’ minds, in 2016, Karun Nair was replaced even after scoring a triple century. During a home series against England, Nair had scored a phenomenal 303, but was rested for the next game to make way for Rahane who had missed out that Test.
Iyer’s arrival in Test cricket with a fantastic century would certainly put pressure on Rahane. The vice-captain hasn’t scored consistently in the last two years and his place in the side has become a point of discussion among the Indian fans and experts alike. It will be interesting to see how coach Rahul Dravid and the team management plan for the next Test.
Meanwhile, after a below-par show, netizens are also questioning the place of pacer Ishant Sharma in the side, demanding to drop him from the playing XI in the next match.
Messages like ‘Time’s up for Ishant Sharma!’ were trending on social media following Indian pacer’s wicketless show in the first Test in Kanpur. Calls for removing Ishant from the playing XI and bringing in Mohammad Siraj in his place for the second Test have gained pace.
The 33-year-old bowled 15 overs in the first innings and gave away 35 runs without taking any wicket. And in the second innings, he bowled seven overs before leaving the field with an injured finger. He returned later but didn’t bowl.
“Wonder why Ishant sharma is playing? unless he produces something sensational his career is over, no reverse swing, no pace, nothing at all,” wrote one on Twitter.
Another wrote, “What is Ishant sharma doing in the Indian Test team is what i am doing in my life, ‘NOTHING’. #INDvsNZ”
“Time to drop Ishant Sharma from home tests. Isn’t even fit enough,” wrote another user.
On Monday, Ishant also claimed an unwanted Test record of bowling the most number of no balls. The pacer while bowling to William Somerville bowled a shortish delivery, which the batsman stood tall and defended.
However, in the process of bowling a short ball, the Indian pacer overstepped the line. With that no ball, the pacer has now bowled 300 no balls in his career. The Delhi seamer has so far represented India in 104 Tests, picking up 311 wickets.
The constant call to drop Rahane and Ishant also gets strong backing from fans and experts, because India have very good replacements ready.
If Rahane gets dropped, Virat Kohli, who is all set to lead the side in Mumbai, will replace him while young Siraj can come in in place of veteran Ishant.
Addressing the press conference after the match on Monday, Dravid said the decision on the playing XI for the Mumbai Test will be taken once skipper Kohli joins the team.
“Look, we haven’t decided what will be our playing XI and it’s too early. Today our focus was on this game and when we go to Mumbai, we will assess the conditions and check people’s fitness. Virat Kohli will join us, so we have to discuss with him also and then take a decision,” Dravid said.