The signs were evident, indicating the imminent farewell to two of India’s premier Test cricketers, Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara. Notably, the pair won’t be participating in the upcoming IND vs SA Test series. Instead, the selectors have opted for Shreyas Iyer, Shubman Gill, and Ruturaj Gaikwad. With the commencement of the new World Test Championship cycle (2023-25), the Indian Cricket Team is shifting its focus towards youth and past standout performers. Consequently, when India takes on South Africa in two Tests at Centurion and Johannesburg on December 26 and January 3, Rahane and Pujara will be absent from the lineup.
India’s squad for South Africa Test
India’s squad for 2 Tests: Rohit Sharma (C), Shubman Gill, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Ishan Kishan (wk), KL Rahul (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Shardul Thakur, Mohd. Siraj, Mukesh Kumar, Mohd. Shami*, Jasprit Bumrah (VC), Prasidh…
— BCCI (@BCCI) November 30, 2023
Pujara and Rahane have consistently anchored the Indian middle order in Test cricket for more than ten years. Collectively, they boast nearly 200 Test appearances, playing pivotal roles in extricating India from challenging situations on numerous occasions. Despite their longstanding contributions, both players found themselves on the periphery due to underwhelming performances in their recent Test outings.
Cheteshwar Pujara boasts an extensive Test career, having participated in 103 Test matches and accumulating 7195 runs at an impressive average exceeding 43, including 19 centuries and three double centuries. Despite this remarkable record, Pujara faced a setback in the WTC final, registering scores of 14 and 27 in the respective innings. On the other hand, Rahane, in contrast to Pujara’s struggles, showcased resilience with scores of 46 and 89 in the WTC final. Unfortunately, Rahane’s performance took a downturn in the subsequent Test series against West Indies, where he managed only 3 and 8 in the two Tests, possibly signaling a challenging phase in his Test career.
Shreyas Iyer’s inclusion in the Test side during the IND vs SA series limited the opportunities for Rahane and Pujara. Yashasvi Jaiswal’s strong performance in the West Indies series is likely to secure his spot as an opener alongside Rohit Sharma, even with KL Rahul’s return. Shubman Gill is anticipated to bat at number three, followed by Virat Kohli at four. Shreyas is slated to occupy the fifth position, while Ravindra Jadeja is expected at six before wicketkeeper Ishan Kishan. With the presence of players like KL Rahul in the squad, it appears that the chances for Pujara and Rahane may have diminished.