Jogging side-by-side at the Harare Sports Club,Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara would be hoping that if given a chance in the playing XI,they could hit the ground running.
So far India have played two matches versus Zimbabwe and won both,with unchanged XIs. Neither Pujara nor Rahane has gotten a chance yet. At the start of the tour,some may have assumed that India would rotate their line-up,try different combinations and present the fringe players opportunities to see how they fare.
Ambati Rayudu and Jaidev Unadkat have played both ODIs,and made their debuts in the process. With three matches left,it will be interesting to see if Rahane,Pujara,who is yet to play a match in India blues,gets to show where they could fit in Indias long-term one-day plans.
As Zimbabwe look unlikely to mount a challenge that could topple Indias applecart,the Virat Kohli-led side can afford the luxury of chopping and changing a winning combination.
Rahane has featured in 16 ODIs,in which he has made 404 runs at 25.25. How he fares against Zimbabwe may not tell selectors if he has sorted out the technical glitches that caused him much trouble against Englands Steven Finn during his last sequence of ODI appearances back in January.
But conditions in Harare have definitely been on the challenging side.
Ambati Rayudu,who made a fluent half-century in the first ODI,found this out in the second,where he scratched his way to 5 off 25 balls. India already know what they need to about the more established batsmen in the squad. But they dont know yet how Pujara will fare in such conditions and theres no reason not to give Rahane another go.
The remaining matches could,in particular,help in assessing Pujaras value as a short-format player. His numbers show he could fit in quite seamlessly. He boasts a List A average of 56.97,topped the run-scoring charts in the 2006 U-19 World Cup,and made 361 runs in three innings (with two not outs) in last years Challenger Trophy,at a 100-plus strike rate.
In comparison,Shikhar Dhawan who,two years before Pujara,had also been the highest run-getter in an U-19 World Cup made 312 runs in three innings,at a strike rate of 98.11. While Dhawan has grown into one of the worlds most exciting ODI batsmen,Pujaras potential in the 50-over game is yet to be given a chance to blossom.
Who would Rahane or Pujara,were they to come into the XI for the third ODI,replace? Rohit Sharma has had a good run during the Champions Trophy and the series in the West Indies. Here,in two innings,he has been dismissed wafting at balls outside off stump.
A little break might help him shake off any jadedness. Were India to attempt a spot of rotation,Rohit could sit out one game,perhaps,and return for the next one with Dhawan making way. A fresh face could even come in at the expense of Suresh Raina. Since the Champions Trophy,Raina has scored just 144 runs in 10 innings at an average of 18.00,with no half-centuries. continued…