Middle-Order Woes Continue for Team India

Going by the current form of the Indian middle-order, KL Rahul could be fighting a lone battle on Friday.

4 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Man In Form: KL Rahul</p></div>

While India may have got off to a good start, thanks to Rohit Sharma's (83) and KL Rahul's opening wicket partnership of 126, middle-order woes continue for the country. Rahul, still going strong at 127 not out, put India in a dominant position at 276/3 at the end of Day One.

However, going by the current form of India's middle-order, or whatever is left of it in this match, Rahul could be seen fighting a lone battle against the England bowlers.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Searching for Form: Cheteshwar Pujara</p></div>

Searching for Form: Cheteshwar Pujara

Image: PTI

Cheteshwar Pujara: Out of Touch

Cheteshwar Pujara has been struggling for form for quite some time now. Just 163 runs at an average of 20.37 in eight innings in 2020 and 389 runs at an average of 27.78 from 15 innings in 2021 is not what you expect to see from your number three batsman.

While he had a brilliant series against Australia earlier this year, Pujara has struggled since the second Test match against England in Ahemdabad. His highest score in the last 11 innings has been 21, highlighting his poor run. Pujara has also had a difficult time in England against the moving ball for quite a while now - it has been eight innings since he last scored a fifty there. And Thursday was yet another example.

First, he survived an lbw shout, then the ball found the edge of his bat, and soon after, he poked one to Bairstow in the cordon, a ball he could have easily left. An average of 26.09 from 23 innings in England may be suitable for a tailender but not for a top-order batsman who has played 88 Tests for India.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Not at his best: Virat Kohli</p></div>

Not at his best: Virat Kohli

Image: PTI / Alastair Grant

Virat Kohli: Missing in Action

That brings us to skipper Virat Kohli, who was caught at the slips on 42 just before the end of the day's play and has not been at his best in 2021. His 271 runs at an average of 27.10 and two half-centuries from ten innings fail to do justice to a player of Kohli's stature and calibre. It has been eight innings since he scored his last Test fifty.

In fact, his overall record in the three series he has played in England since 2014 has been average at best. A total of 826 runs from 24 innings (13 Test matches) at an average of 34.41 is unlike a player ranked world no.5 in Tests, one who dominated world cricket for several years.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Ajinkya Rahane </p></div>

Ajinkya Rahane

Image: IANS

Ajinkya Rahane: Time to Strike Back

Like Kohli, middle-order batsman Ajinkya Rahane, having played 13 Test matches, has the most experience of playing in England in the current Indian squad. He, too, has been fighting for form, having scored 269 runs from 14 innings at an average of 20.69 in 2021.

While he is still at the crease along with Rahul, it will take a special effort from him to fend off the English bowlers since he also has a poor record in England. A total of 626 runs from 24 innings at an average of 28.45 does not inspire much confidence. The England bowlers will be aware of that and come all guns blazing at him, not allowing him to settle down.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Rohit Sharma scored an impressive 83 on Thursday.</p></div>

Rohit Sharma scored an impressive 83 on Thursday.

Image: Alastair Grant / PTI

Over-Reliance on the Openers is No Go!

Not much batting is left after Rahane, with Rishabh Pant and Ravindra Jadeja to follow. While Pant, playing his natural aggressive game, scored a quickfire 25 off 20 in the first Test, India would require much more than that from him to put a good score on the board. He averages just 25.77 in England and would be looking to improve upon that. Jadeja scored an impressive 56 in Nottingham and shared a crucial partnership with Rahul, and India would be hoping for a similar show from him as well.

With an innings and three Test matches left in the series, India can't afford to be completely dependent or over-reliant on its openers. Despite his inexperience of playing Test cricket in England, Rohit Sharma played some superb shots on Thursday, hitting 11 boundaries and one six in his innings of 83.

The opener missed out on his first century in the country when he was bowled out off an in-swinging delivery from James Anderson, which crashed into the stumps after a deflection from his pads. Sharma, who wasn't a regular in the Test side earlier, has only played four Tests and seven innings in England. Five of those innings have come in 2021 itself.

The other opener, Rahul, was brought in as a makeshift opener after injuries to Shubhman Gill and Mayank Agarwal. Rahul has had a splendid series so far and would be looking to make the second opener's spot his own.

While three more Tests are left in the series, it is high time for India's middle order to come good. Only then will they have a chance of lifting the Pataudi Trophy after 14 years.

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Edited By :Padmashree Pande
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