‘We still don’t have better batter than Pujara’: Harbhajan outlines India’s ‘clueless’ act after SA Test loss

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It was called as India‘s best-ever chance to conquer the final frontier, one the nation has failed in the last 31 years in Test cricket, but the hopes and dreams were shattered in a mere three days as South Africa defeated the Rohit Sharma-led side by an innings and 32 Test in the opening game in Centurion to take an unassailable lead in the two-match series. Following the loss, Team India and their tactical choices in the game and the build-up to it have been immensely criticised. On Friday, former India cricketer Harbhajan Singh joined the bandwagon as he outlined a “clueless” act by the BCCI selectors.

Harbhajan Singh questioned the logic behind dropping Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara from the squad

Harbhajan, speaking on his YouTube channel on the Centurion clash, questioned the logic behind dropping Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara from the squad. While the former had made his return to the Test team earlier in 2023 after being dropped in March 2022, and played a crucial knock, albeit in a losing cause, in the World Test Championship final against Australia, before being named as the vice-captain in the West Indies tour in August, Pujara last made an appearance for India in the WTC game against Pat Cummins’ team.

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More than Rahane’s absence, the legendary off-spinner was hurt by the absence of Pujara, who he feels has contributed to India’s past few Test wins in Australia and England as much as Virat Kohli. Pujara was the second-highest run-scorer for India in the previous WTC cycle where he amassed 928 runs at an average of 32.00, while Kohli was the only player ahead of him with 932 at 32.13.

He said: “You didn’t select Ajinkya Rahane and have left Cheteshwar Pujara out for no reason. These are the two players who have scored runs everywhere. If you look at the previous record Pujara has the same contribution as Kohli had. I absolutely clueless why Pujara has been left out, we still don’t have a better batter than Puajra in Test cricket. He plays slowly but he saves you, because of him India won Test in Australia and England.”

Earlier, during India’s first innings at the SuperSport Park, former India captain Sunil Gavaskar had rued the absence of Rahane as he recalled his valiant knock of 48 in the 2018/19 series at the very same venue.

“People have been talking about the pitch in Johannesburg Test five years back and I was there. Yeah it wasn’t the easiest of pitches to bat on the odd ball was climbing up. And Ajinkya Rahane, who had not been picked for the first two Test matches, was picked for that game and he showed what the Indian team had missed because earlier on in the first couple of Test matches India did not lose by big margins. So maybe somebody with Rahane’s experience overseas… because Rahane overseas has been such a fine, fine player and maybe if he had been there today the story could have been completely different,” Gavaskar had said on commentary on Star Sports.

India will now aim to draw the series as they face South Africa in the second Test on January 3 at the Newlands Cricket Ground in Cape Town.

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