Middle Order In Focus As Kohli Returns For Wankhede Showdown

Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Middle order in focus as Kohli returns for Wankhede showdown. One of Pujara or Rahane may face the axe in Mumbai.

Middle Order In Focus As Kohli Returns For Wankhede ShowdownOne of Pujara or Rahane may face the axe in Mumbai.

Stats, as we know, reveal less and hide more. But not this one, perhaps. Between Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane, the chief oxygen suppliers of Indian batting for nearly a decade, there's only one century in 82 innings – 104 at the MCG in December 2020 being the odd knock out. That is not analogous to an underachievement for a trio which has 57 Test centuries among them. That is a collective disaster.

Pujara has gone without a century in 40 innings, Rahane for 21 innings and so has the indefatigable Kohli, whose last three-figure knock was 136 against Bangladesh in Kolkata two years ago. The continued barren spell of the three in the middle order has been inversely proportional to the team's success elsewhere that has lifted them to No. 1 Test ranking (currently No. 2) for a long time. It is time they made changes to the batting order.

A former member of Indian coaching staff has confided to Cricbuzz that attempts were made to change the complexion of the middle order recently in England itself.

However, now with Kohli coming in, logically, the middle order composition will look different in the second and final Test against New Zealand at the Wankhede, starting on Friday (December 3) but will the team management do what the previous management had contemplated, but did not? Some experts, VVS Laxman for instance, has suggested that the team management should drop Mayank Agarwal and push Pujara to the top to accommodate Kohli, coming back after rest, and retain newcomer Shreyas Iyer, the centurion in the drawn Kanpur Test.

It may not be a sound idea to do away with a specialist opener and more vitally the opportunity must not be frittered to ring in changes to the Test batting. If actually the team management strides that path, Pujara may be the one to sit out, Rahane escaping the axe only for having led the side in the previous Test. Captain yesterday and out today does not make for a great billboard, does it? He will be playing his first Test at home ground, by the way.

One alluring prospect for the hosts – who have remained unbeaten in 13 series at home — is the look of the Wankhede in the mornings could be reminiscent of good things for the skipper. Kohli had scored a double century the last time he had played a Test here – 235 against England in 2016.

A century from the skipper is not only long overdue but much-awaited too, and that could change the fortunes of the team against New Zealand, who have consolidated their reputation as the bogey team for India of late and had recorded their last Test win on the Indian soil at this very ground – in 1988.

When: India vs New Zealand, 2nd Test, December 3-7, 9.30 AM Local Time

Where: Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai

What to expect: Although it has been raining in Mumbai, the weather is expected to be clement during the Test. The pitch expected to assist spinners and that could ensure a result.

Team News


The hosts are expected to bite the bullet and leave out Pujara and retain Mayank Agarwal at the top and Iyer in the middle order. There is also a possibility that wicketkeeper KS Bharat will make his debut. Ishant Sharma could make away for Mohammed Siraj.

Probable XI: Shubman Gill, Mayank Agarwal, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Ajinkya Rahane, KS Bharat, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Siraj and Umesh Yadav

New Zealand

The visitors would likely retain the same side that played in Kanpur.

Probable XI: Tom Latham, Will Young, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, Tom Blundell, Rachim Ravindran, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Ajaz Patel, Will Somerville

What they said?

“I know that the team tried everything that they could and Jinks [Rahane] has always brought up great ideas to make sure that we put the opposition under pressure – with strategies, with field placing, rotating the bowlers as well… Sometimes when you are not able to pull off a result you also have to give credit to the opposition. For them to bat out 10-12 overs in the end with the last wicket was a very good effort from them as well. So you have to be realistic about the scenario, you have to be realistic about the situation.” – Kohli, on if he would have done anything different to ensure a result in first Test

“No I don't think it's a concern. As we've seen in this part of the world, it can be tough to start. And there was periods for both sides, we were able to take wickets and take it a few at a time, so it's not easy to start in these conditions. Henry Nicholls has scored runs in this part of the world, Ross Taylor has experience. And then you've got a couple of guys who haven't played a lot in this part of the world so I don't think it's a concern at all. I think that they are all quality players and they've shown they can perform at this level.” – Southee, on if New Zealand's middle-order's form is a concern

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