India’s next Test assignment is quite a while away, in late August at home against New Zealand. However, with the India A team currently in West Indies for an unofficial Test series, it is a pertinent time to analyse as to who would fit into the big shoes of Rahul Dravid. The number three position has always been the most pivotal one in Test cricket, and whoever walks into the number, replacing Dravid, will have a humungous task on hand.
Four players currently in the India A squad stand a decent chance of claiming the spot left vacant by the legendary Dravid, depending on their performance in the Caribbean. Here’s a look at the quartet.
Cheteshwar Pujara: The man from Saurashtra announced himself on the international stage with a wonderfully composed, attacking 72 on his debut against Australia, which turned a tricky chase for India into a comfortable one. His biggest Test came at Durban, where he hung around to help India build a decent target, which eventually turned out to be a match-winning one. However, while making his IPL debut last year, Pujara dived for a ball and injured his knee. In the time has he was away, Virat Kohli was given opportunities and has done little to lose his place.
Rohit Sharma: Believe it or not, five years after making his ODI debut and playing 80 games, the Mumbai youngster is yet to make his Test debut. The closest he came was way back in 2010, when VVS Laxman was unfit and Sharma was brought in as his replacement. Call it sheer bad luck or a cruel twist of fate, Sharma injured himself during practice and Laxman returned soon enough to reclaim his place in the XI. Surprisingly, he wasn’t picked in the XI for any of the Tests in Australia despite India losing one game after the other.
Manoj Tiwary: Like Sharma, Tiwary too was hindered by injury. On the 2007 tour of Bangladesh, he hurt his shoulder so badly during a practice game that he had to be flown back immediately. Opportunities have come far and few in between since then. He managed to register his maiden ODI hundred last year and has been a success in the IPL. However, his big moment in Tests is yet to come. With Dravid out of the scene, and Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar in the twilight of the career, Tiwary could get his opportunity soon, if not at number three then in a vacant middle-order slot. He would hope for some better luck that time.
Ajinkya Rahane: His has been a strange case. Rahane has all the makings of a solid number three bat. A sound technique, dogged mindset and the ability to play long innings. In spite of all this, it is the big hitting in the IPL that has made his a known name in cricketing circles. Like every cricketer who plays the sport for the true passion of the game above money, Rahane would want to establish himself in the Test XI. He has age on his side but needs to ensure that he doesn’t get slotted as an IPL specialist.