India Tour of England: Will Virat Kohli & Ravi Shastri bench Cheteshwar Pujara for Hanuma Vihari or KL Rahul in 1st Test?

India Tour of England: Will Virat Kohli & Ravi Shastri bench Cheteshwar Pujara for Hanuma Vihari or KL Rahul in 1st Test
India Tour of England: Will Virat Kohli & Ravi Shastri bench Cheteshwar Pujara for Hanuma Vihari or KL Rahul in 1st Test

India Tour of England: For the last few years, Cheteshwar Pujara has been India’s mainstay in batting in Test. He has performed in overseas conditions and at home. But the last few months have been a nightmare for the veteran batsman. He has struggled to score runs, putting India’s middle-order off-balance. With the 1st Test starting August 4 at Nottingham, it raises the question, will India bench Pujara for Hanuma Vihari or KL Rahul who could extend India’s innings?

Cheteshwar Pujara’s last half-century came 8 innings ago in Chennai when he slammed 73 against England. Since then, he has scored 15, 21, 7, 0, 17, 8 and 15. In the warm-up match, he scored 21 & 38, again failing to give India the solidity in middle-order. Furthermore, he has gone without a century in the last 18 Test matches. That lack of big scores has been a problem that has put the likes of Ajinkya Rahane and Rishabh Pant under pressure.

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India Tour of England: Should Cheteshwar Pujara be benched for Hanuma Vihari or KL Rahul?

  • Pujara’s average since the Australia tour in 2018-19 has been 28.03 with no centuries.
  • His strike rate is another area of concern. Since the tour, his strike rate has gone down to 35.69. His ultra-defensive approach has often worked but it has also let the bowler come back and put pressure on the other batsman on the crease.
  • In the WTC Final, when he needed to stay longer, he failed, managing just 8 & 15 despite playing 54 and 80 balls respectively.
  • Hanuma Vihari hasn’t had a great campaign either but he hasn’t got many opportunities to test his mettle either. He could be given a chance to prove his worth with Pujara struggling.
  • KL Rahul on the other hand is eying a comeback in Test and will be eager to do well. His last Test was in West Indies and it wasn’t a great tour.
  • With Mayank Agarwal set to open with Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul is a good fit at No 3 to score at a higher strike rate and take the fight to the bowlers.

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India Tour of England: The two options India currently have are Hanuma Vihari and KL Rahul as Suryakumar Yadav will be able to join only from the 3rd Test. Hanuma Vihari’s records in England doesn’t offer much confidence either as he has failed to put up big scores despite spending more time in England than the rest of the players.

Furthermore, he isn’t seen as a top-order batsman. He will only get the nod if Virat Kohli or Ajinkya Rahane agrees to bat at No 3.

KL Rahul, on the other hand, is seen as an opener rather than a middle-order batsman. However, with Mayank Agarwal set to open with Rohit Sharma and if either falls early, KL Rahul will be facing the new ball anyway and could offer a realistic chance to fight back. That he is in fine form in the IPL and carried that in the warm-up match against Select County XI, slamming a century will offer Virat Kohli & Ravi Shastri hope.

However, what goes against him is his stats at No 3 in Test. While KL Rahul has been relatively successful as an opener, he hasn’t done well at No 3. In five innings at that position, he has averaged only 17.60 with just a 50 to his name. But at this point, India do not have an option other than backing KL Rahul or Hanuma Vihari.

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