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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Who will succeed Rahul Dravid?

Indian cricket has very big shoes to fill.


When the selection committee sits down to pick a 15-member squad on Friday for the two-Test series against New Zealand at home, they will, for the first time in 16 years, be considering a replacement for someone irreplaceable.Rahul Dravid, to the utter dismay of the game’s wisest men, won’t be around.With that, the most coveted batting position he held throughout his career – the number three slot – will remain vacant, vulnerable against oppositions who will now look to breathe easy.Not that there isn’t a talent pool to pick from and nurture but those who’ve followed Indian cricket through the last decade have somehow always feared this day. K Srikkanth, even as chief selector, and his team — with Mohinder Amarnath figuring in it — will feel no different.Despite a string of poor scores in England and Australia, on reputation alone, VVS Laxman may remain, even perhaps going on to claim Dravid’s No. 3 batting slot which he yearned all through his career. A temporary fix though, till he too bows out sooner or later.Then who among the fresh lot?The name that instantly comes to mind is Cheteshwar Pujara, the number three batsman from Saurashtra, a prolific scorer in the domestic circuit and already with a Test cap to his credit.He will certainly be back in the squad after missing out most of 2011, including the tour of Australia – Dravid’s last series – because of injury.Delhi boy Virat Kohli, the most successful of Indian batters Down Under and right now in raging form, will get in too.Also getting the nod more easily than ever earlier could be Mumbai batsman Ajinkya Rahane who toured Australia but is yet to get a game.However, among the three, it is Pujara alone — by way of reputation to have an appetite for big scores — heading the list to claim the No 3 slot.The selection headache will worsen only when the names of Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina come up in the list of contenders and get endlessly discussed.Raina did not tour Australia for the Test series and for some time now, his significance as a player for shorter formats in more friendly conditions has gained credibility over the likelihood of being recognised as a Test batsman, a format he debuted in 2010. It’ll be a tough call for selectors and a litmus test of sorts for the batsman, if he’s included.The other bet is Rohit Sharma, who continues to flatter to deceive in one-day cricket despite having played at the highest level for five years now.It is not easy for selectors to persist with a batsman whose scores in last 15 one-dayers read: 27, 21, 21, 10, 33, 15, 0, 4, 68, 5, 0, 0, 4 & 4. Test cricket is a different ballgame but for selection at any level, the figures have to somewhere show.A Test debut can make things worse for the beleaguered Sharma, who is low on confidence and whose immediate priority now should be to return to domestic cricket and get some runs.As for Raina, he alone can better his chances if he can do in tougher conditions and bigger formats what he’s managed in inconsequential, batsman-friendly one-dayers and Twenty20s.The rest of the squad automatically falls in place if the middle-order does. And in Dravid’s absence, that’s where the focus will have to be as things move forward. Big shoes to fill indeed and the time starts now.

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