India bowling coach Paras Mhambrey said on Wednesday that the team is backing senior batters Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara to come good ahead of the second Test against New Zealand on Friday. He believes that the duo is just one innings away from bouncing back into form.
In Test matches in 2021, Rahane has amassed just 411 runs in 21 innings at an average of 19.57, including only two half-centuries.
In the drawn first Test at Kanpur, Rahane registered scores of 35 and 4, resulting in his Test career average going below 40. Pujara, on the other hand, is yet to score a century since his knock of 193 against Australia in the 2019 Sydney Test.
Just like Rahane, Pujara was unable to leave an impact in the Kanpur Test, making 26 and 22 in both innings.
“I think with both Ajinkya and Pujara, we know that they have a lot of experience behind them. They played enough cricket and we also know as a team that they are one innings away from coming back into form. So, as a team, everyone is behind them and backing them. We know that the value they bring to the team, the experience that they have will come good.
“So, it is just one innings away from getting back to form. In that sense, we are not having those discussions around them. They have played enough cricket to understand what is expected out of them and what is required to get that going,” said Mhambrey in the virtual press interaction.
Mhambrey threw his support behind senior pacer Ishant Sharma, who went wicketless in the Kanpur Test, saying that he will regain his rhythm as he plays more matches.
“Ishant has not played much cricket for a long time. He hasn’t played in the IPL and (Men’s T20) World Cup. That does make a difference and we are working on it. He has got enough experience under his belt. It makes a huge difference in having him in the dressing room with the experience he has.
“It is also an opportunity for other bowlers to spend some time with him and understand the nuances of fast bowling. He is a great help around. We are aware of his rhythm, something which we are working around it. I am sure that he needs a couple of games under his belt to get his rhythm and he will be back for sure.”
At the same time, he was appreciative of Umesh Yadav’s efforts in the first Test, especially with him troubling New Zealand captain Kane Williamson in the second innings.
“Very happy with the way Umesh bowled in the second innings. There was one spell where he really troubled Kane. It was so positive and happy to see that happening on a surface and created those opportunities for us. Unfortunately, he didn’t get the wicket but created chances for others which put pressure on Kane.”
Talking about the make-up of the playing eleven, Mhambrey didn’t drop any subtle hints. “With Shreyas, thankfully, we are not in a position to do that. Let Virat come in and with Rahul, I am sure they will have a discussion around that. So, in terms of the team structure, it’s their call.”
Asked if second keeper KS Bharat will debut in Mumbai if Wriddhiman Saha doesn’t recover from neck stiffness, Mhambrey said, “I think we will take a call closer to the game. I think the physios are constantly in touch with head coach Rahul and Virat now. As we get closer to the game, we will take a call and see what condition he is in. With whatever he has been through, I think fabulous effort to bat in that Test match.
“It was painful. We realised that but he put up his hand. The team wanted it and he delivered it for the team. Really happy to see.”