Former India fast bowler Zaheer Khan feels there is more pressure on Cheteshwar Pujara than Ajinkya Rahane ahead of the second Test against New Zealand, staring December 3 in Mumbai.
Both Pujara and Rahane’s positions in the Indian Test team has been under scanner this year after their repeated failures with the bat. Pujara scored 26 and 22 in both innings of the Kanpur Test while stand-in skipper Rahane made 35 and 4 at the Green Park Stadium.
Both players have been woefully out of form with the bat in Tests over the last two years with Pujara averaging 20.37 and 30.42 while Rahane has managed 38.85 and 19.57 in 2020 and 2021 respectively.
Either one of the two is likely to make way for captain Virat Kohli, who is back after short break from cricket. India also have a selection headache regarding Shreyas Iyer, who scored a hundred and fifty on debut in the drawn first Test.
“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.
“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,” Zaheer told Cricbuzz before adding that Iyer must play the second Test this week.
“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.”
Zaheer also said that India might not look to make any changes in the bowling department but if they do, then he thinks Axar Patel might have to make way for Mohammed Siraj.
“I don’t think determining the bowling attack would be a difficult decision. Siraj has been a mainstay now with good consistent performances.
“If India decides to play 3 seamers then Axar Patel will be the bowler who will have to make way. But pitches in India always have some turn, on offer after Day 3, so don’t think there will be too many changes in the bowling combination,” Zaheer said.