New Zealand’s omission of Mitchell Santner and Neil Wagner was baffling, but when it came to India, the last fortnight proved to be a mixture of comebacks and question marks with an eye on the future.
The fact that the list of memorable comebacks was much longer than expected underlined India’s success in Rahul Dravid’s maiden assignment as the head coach for a Test series.
Days before the start of the opener in Kanpur, Mayank Agarwal and Shubman Gill would not have thought about opening the innings in both the Tests and Shreyas Iyer would have been far from being assured of a much-awaited Test cap.
Had K.L. Rahul not been injured, Mayank would have continued to be on the bench and Gill was likely to have replaced Kohli in the middle-order.
GRABBING THE OPPORTUNITY
Rahul’s injury meant the trio got a chance in their preferred roles and all of them grabbed the opportunity.
Mayank and Shreyas remained the talking points of the series, thanks to their scintillating performances.
In the bowling department, the spin trio of R. Ashwin, Axar Patel and Jayant Yadav underlined their utility. Ashwin emerged the Player of the Series with valuable contributions with both the ball and willow.
Axar and Jayant ensured India didn’t miss Ravindra Jadeja in the second Test while Mohammed Siraj virtually sealed his place over Ishant Sharma for the South Africa tour with a fiery spell in Mumbai.
Despite all these gains, the team management and the selectors will have more than a few question marks heading into the Boxing Day Test. Whether to persist with Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara in the playing XI is the biggest conundrum.
Since the start of 2020, Rahane, Pujara and captain Virat Kohli have averaged a meagre 24.39, 26.04 and 27.38, respectively.
With the likes of Mayank, Gill and Shreyas having made a strong case for themselves, it will be interesting whether India decides to move on from either Rahane or Pujara, if not both, in South Africa.
Rahane’s mysterious injury that was cited as the cause of his exclusion for the second Test may just be a start. But Dravid definitely hasn’t given up on the senior batter.
Before India’s departure to South Africa, Dravid is set to work with Rahane and Rohit Sharma for three sessions over the next five days. Will that help Rahane regain his mojo?
The questions will persist for the next fortnight.