Johannesburg, January 17: Former India cricketer Harbhajan Singh believes Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane's consistently poor form with the bat has diminished their chances of keeping their spots in the playing XI intact.
Both Rahane and Pujara have continued to disappoint with the bat which has rendered Team India's middle-order toothless. India's faulty batting performance was a prime reason for the team's shambolic series defeat against South Africa.
Rahane's runs since 2021: 22, 4, 37, 24, 1, 0, 67, 10,7, DNB, 27, 49, 15, 5, DNB, 1, 61, 18, 10, 14, 0, 35, 4, 48, 20, 0 (on January 3, 2022).
Pujara's runs since 2021: 50, 77, 25, 56, 73, 15, 21, 7, 0, DNB, 17, 8, 15, 4, 12*, 9, 45, 1, 91, 4, 61, 26, 22, 0, 47, 0, 16, & 3 (on January 3, 2022).
On his YouTube channel, Harbhajan said, "Rahane and Pujara's form has been the hot topic of debate for a while. Both played 50-run knocks in Johannesburg but expectations from seniors are much higher than this. The way ahead will be difficult for them as they didn't score that many runs."
Harbhajan also opined that Rahane-Pujara's form with the bat has also opened the doors for players like Suryakumar Yadav and Shreyas Iyer - who are waiting for a spot in the playing XI.
"The way Rahane and Pujara performed they have actually opened the doors for players like Suryakumar Yadav and Shreyas Iyer. Both players have been waiting for their opportunities," the legendary off-spinner added.
Harbhajan, who announced his retirement from all formats of the game in December 2021, also was critical of opener Mayank Agarwal's poor show with the bat on South Africa tour. The Turbanator said the opening batsman from Karnataka failed to make good use of the opportunities and his non-performance would result in team management looking at Prithvi Shaw or Shubman Gill for the next series.
"Mayank Agarwal got six innings but he didn't make use of the opportunity, which is a sign that someone like Prithvi Shaw and Shubman Gill might come in for the next series," the 41-year-old said.
Team India's next Test assignment will come during a two-match home Test series against Sri Lanka in February-March 2021. Before the start of that series, team management is also have to appoint a new captain as Virat Kohli resigned as Test skipper too.