Elephant in room grows bigger
The Indian Express Delhi|January 15, 2022
Blame for World No.1 team's failure to win a maiden series in South Africa lies with the misfiring middle order
ABHISHEK PUROHIT

IN HINDSIGHT, had it not been for arguably the best batting day of the series -- the first day of the first Test -- India could have ended the South Africa tour in a worse position. They had gone to stumps on 272/3, which quickly turned into 327 all out when play resumed on the third morning.

In the second innings, 109/4 led to 174 all out. In Johannesburg, 116/4 was to become 202 all out in the first innings, and 155/2 into 266 all out in the second. In Cape Town, 116/3 subsided to 223 all out in the first innings, and they went from 152/4 to 198 all out in the second dig. No frontier of any sort, let alone a final one, can be crossed with so many collective stumbles along the path.

The time has in all likelihood come to finally address the elephant in the room - the misfiring middle order. If there was one glaring difference between the two sides, it was at No. 3. Keegan Petersen got better and better as the series reached its climax: three flowing half-centuries, two of them in the decider. South Africa averaged 38.16 at No.3. India managed 19.66. Starting from their previous tour of South Africa, in the last four years, India's No.3 position has averaged 32.83, which is seventh among all Test teams. India's No. 3 strike-rate of 39 is, of course, right at the bottom.

Cheteshwar Pujara has been one of India's finest batsmen ever, but if India do not utilise the upcoming Sri Lanka home Tests to try out someone else at No.3, it will be a waste of an opportunity. There is little to be achieved now if Pujara bosses another hapless attack in home conditions.

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