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Batting order or anarchy?

by Gaurav Sethi

We don’t have to get over the Virat Kohli question. Just as we couldn’t get over the Virat Kohli answer. Be it to bowlers, oppositions, interviewers, the world at large. 

Both the Kohli question, as too the Kohli answer are deeply imbedded in Indian cricket, and will continue to, for years. 

We can continue to ask them, but in the middle of a series they will not be answered: Kohli will continue as captain and player. 

 There are other solutions, but India’s win at Lord’s, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane’s contributions in that Test may have deferred them. 

Both Pujara and Rahane are one format players for India. That comes with an added thrust of insecurity; one that hovers over the head – one that has over the years, compelled them to defy the white ball’s shrug. 

This has been more marked in Rahane’s game even though Pujara continued to back himself as a white ball cricketer in the press. 

For years, Pujara remained unsold in the IPL auctions. Then when CSK did come around, it met with an applause. As if CSK had indulged in some form of red ball charity. Pujara however, remained on the CSK bench. 

 In the 2020 season, Rahane played 9 matches for the Delhi Capitals, went largely unnoticed. The following season, just 2 matches. Rahane is an afterthought in his IPL team. 

Rahane’s Test innings often appear to be an unacceptance of the white ball verdict: even before settling down, he looks to score. That loosely thrown around term, ‘busy cricketer’ seems to be him. His methods are high risk. Yet they come off at least once a series. 

With so much uncertainty in his batting, it’s remarkable that he can make significant contributions, albeit the one-off knock per series. Then there is that other well documented facet, Rahane the captain; the back from the dead turnaround series Down Under. Rahane’s century at Melbourne. There will always be Brisbane. That series victory is in Ajinkya Rahane’s credits. But with a Test average threatening to keel over into the 30s, Rahane is skidding fast on an already slippery slope. 

Ajinkya Rahane highest score in the series so far is 61 with two single digit scores. It’s one thing to defy the media with words, quite another to prep for each innings as your comeback knock. 


Once upon a time, that was Rohit Sharma. Then something happened. Rohit decided he had more time on his hands than Pujara. He had nowhere to go, and he was going nowhere. He slid back in time to a space when he started batting for the first time in the nets – leave, block, leave, defend, leave. Isn’t that how it starts? 

Rohit has always had a stillness to his batting. It’s just that the brain fade before breaks was never far. That continued to mess with his Test career. Yet the love for rekindling Rohit’s Test career was a lifelong obsession with Indian cricket. 

Against South Africa at home, Rohit ran into three tons. In Australia, he had starts. Against England at home, Rohit was by far India’s best batsman. 

 In England this has meant starts in each outing, as also falling to the pull three times in five completed innings. Rohit Sharma’s highest score so far in the series is 83, with no single digit score. 


First, Rishabh Pant the batsman bailed out Rishabh Pant the wicketkeeper. Then Pant the batsman bailed out India. 

Before that Pant in his short career was scrutinised like few before him. In Australia, he converted all those questions into answers with some of the most emphatic innings by an Indian batsman overseas. 

Yet by the Leeds Test, Pant too had dispensed with his defence. Pant’s batting was precarious enough to be in the Rahane or Kohli ballpark. 

Pant’s highest score in the series so far is 37, with two single digit scores. 


 Before Pujara’s second innings at Leeds, he laid the foundations for the Lord’s win with Rahane. His 45 (206) was his highest score in the series. Before his 91 at Leeds, he had three single digit sores. 

As is often documented, Pujara seems to be the recipient of that cracker delivery. Yet after an indifferent home series against England, Pujara’s troubles outside the off-stump were starting to seem Kohliesque. 

Then England bowled poorly to Pujara, allowing him to score rapidly, almost an oxymoron. Pujara’s 91 was as much a contradiction of his poor form, as of England’s bowling effort. A cut through point seemed like a throwaway to a different era. 

On the last morning, Pujara’s inability to put away a half volley seemed more like it. The strokeless dismissal that followed seemed almost befitting. 


Amongst India’s top six, KL Rahul has the lowest Test batting average, the only one in the 30s. He’s also the sole Indian batsman with a century in the series. Picked after Mayank Agarwal’s concussion, Rahul’s last three single digit scores have added to the team’s headache. 

Yet Rahul has shown similar application as his opening partner. His 5(44) and 8(89) have amply demonstrated this. What is worrying is, will this be a repeat of Rahul’s earlier trends: 100 or bust? 

KL Rahul’s highest score in the series so far is 129. Man of the match at Lord’s for his troubles. The 86 at Nottingham revealed a defence tight enough to belong to his namesake. 


Virat Kohli alone has a 50 plus batting average. The cushion of captaincy, bygone runs separate Kohli from the rest. 

Virat Kohli’s highest score in the series so far is 55, with two single digit scores. He has been dismissed five times. Edged and taken. Each time. 


What the statistics fail to reveal are the bio-bubbles cricketers have inhabited over the last year. That centuries may not be as accessible as before. That there will be periods when more than half the batting won’t click. That in England, the 250-350 range plus/minus 50 could be more the norm. That even on a flatbed such as Leeds, under bright sunshine, the batting could go missing. That this is James Anderson’s backyard. And he owns the few feet outside your off stump. 

If years of facing James Anderson in English conditions have taught India’s top order little, what hope is there for new recruits? But then again, didn’t the summer of 1996 unfurl the careers of Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly. Back then too, Dravid and Ganguly had two Tests in England– two centuries, a ninety and an eighty later, Indian cricket was redrawn for good. 

Unlikely India will change the batting personnel at the Oval. Come Manchester though, it might get personal. And with this Indian bunch, you never know what that means – it could be with the opposition on the field, or leaks in the media. And we all know how that pans out. The batting needs to breathe, just as it needs to be guarded.

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