Dinesh Karthik feels Pujara, Rahane will feature in 1st Test vs SA Photograph:( AFP )
Despite Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane's poor returns with the bat, Dinesh Karthik feels Rahul Dravid will play both of them in India's tour opener versus South Africa.
Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane have been a subject of discussion for long. The two senior pros have been in poor form for quite sometime and the criticism over the duo has grown in recent times, due to the emergence of other options in the middle-order such as Shreyas Iyer, Hanuma Vihari, etc.
Ahead of the South Africa tour opener, where Virat Kohli & Co. will play three Tests and equal number of ODIs, veteran keeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik feels both Pujara and Rahane will manage to feature in the first Test. For the unversed, Pujara hasn't managed a triple-figure knock since early 2019 whereas Rahane has only two fifty-plus knocks since his last Test ton, which came in late 2020 during the Border-Gavaskar Trophy versus Australia Down Under.
Prior to India's first Test versus Dean Elgar-led SA, Karthik told on Cricbuzz, "This whole group of KL Rahul, Rohit and Mayank will be the three openers, followed by Pujara, Rahane and Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer and Shubman Gill will be the batters. Don't know what will happen to Hanuma Vihari. Ideally, he should have been part of the squad, but it's sad that he had to go and play for India A. Are they going to fit him in when he comes back to the squad? Because everyone here has done enough to hold on to their places.
"Even the ones getting 30s and 40s, which cannot be undervalued, have looked set on tough wickets. Kanpur and Mumbai were not easy wickets. They applied themselves and played good shots. So where does a Vihari fit in that's an important question. Has Iyer done enough to come and take over Vihari's place."
He further asserted "Another man there who is hanging on by the skin of the teeth is Rahane. He is the vice-captain and has done phenomenally well as a captain. Where does he stand? But knowing Rahul Dravid, he will go with the tried and tested method of going with Pujara and Rahane to start with and then when things unfold he will allow it to unravel and makes changes necessary. All these guys will be on the plane to South Africa and will be in the XI as well. Don't see too many changes as well, maybe one odd change."
India will play the first Test versus South Africa in Centurion on December 26. It will be followed by the two Tests and three ODIs in the African nation. Talking about both Rahane and Pujara, time is running for the senior pros to hold onto their respective spots and the forthcoming Tests will be a do-or-die series for them.