How to solve the No. 3 position conundrum of Indian Test side?
The way in which Indian batsmen surrendered the first innings advantage to serve the Sri Lankan team an unexpected victory was really unusual. This was only the second time India has lost chasing a sub 200 total in the Test match. After dominating sessions after sessions, the fall of Indian men off the spinners of Sri Lanka is indeed a wake-up call.
With new captain’s five bowlers strategy, Indian team just cannot afford to have non-performing batsmen in the playing 11. The position which becomes really critical in such situation is the No. 3 position. In the last 12 months, India was involved in the 7 encounters played across different grounds in England, Australia, Bangladesh and most recently Sri Lanka.
In these encounters Indian No. 3 batsmen were able to score mere 307-runs with a pity average of 23.61 with the highest score of 73. India also tried 2 different batsmen during these 12 months to serve this most important position. Cheteshwar Pujara (4M, 7I, 195R, 27.86 Avg) and Rohit Sharma (3M, 5I, 111R, 22.2 Avg). As the numbers suggest, both the batsmen were well below par during this period and India’s failure to win even a single match during this year can very easily be attributed to the failure of the person handling the responsibility of building innings at No. 3.
Pujara looked settled in the role of No. 3 batsmen at the start of his career. But, this may be attributed to the fact that out of the 27 matches he played, 13 out of first 15 were played on the Indian soil (Avg 75.23). In the next 14 matches which were played across South Africa, New Zealand, England and Australia, his performance dropped drastically with 797- runs in 27 Innings with an average of 29.5.
This performance may look better compared to Mr. Talented (Rohit Sharma) who started his career with a bang. 288 Runs in the first 2 innings promised a lot but, with only 393-runs in his next 10 Test matches, he himself has put up a big question mark on his talent.
Even after this, he was been given multiple chances to prove his worth at various positions including the No.3 one. He never failed to prove his critics right with three single digit scores in last three innings. It will be very interesting to see if Virat Kohli can persist with Rohit for two more Tests scheduled in Sri Lanka.
There are two options available with team India for this series. They may decide to give Pujara one more chance considering the fact that he scored decently in his county stint with Yorkshire and hasn’t been given enough opportunities.
This may be a good option while looking at the fact that the next Test match series of India will be played on the Indian track against the mighty South Africans and India will need their No. 3 to give them a solid foundation to build their innings upon.
The other option can be the introduction of KL Rahul at No. 3 position. This option has not been tried yet as one of the Indian openers had to sit out of the team due to one reason or another and Rahul was given a duty as an opener.
But, with Murli Vijay all set to resume his duties as an opener and Shikhar Dhawan out with an injury, Pujara’s inclusion seems to be the right choice. If he does well, he can play against Steyn and Co. and if he doesn’t, then Rahul can come in and fill the void.
It is high time for India as they need to search for a long-term solution to this problem of No. 3 position which was vacated by the retirement of a great called Rahul Dravid. Selectors can always look out for one more backup from the States, India-A, and India U-19.
With Rahul Dravid at the helm of the last two teams, future for India certainly looks promising. But, for this to happen, team India’s cricket management should stop showing faith only on the basis of talent and give the current form its due weight age.