Kohli-Pujara-Rahane averages dip on bowlers' turf
- Kohli, Pujara and Rahane's batting averages have been their worst ever, or matched their poorest phase, across fairly long careers.
India have played in bowler-friendly conditions now for three Test series in a row, and although the results have been largely positive, several batting averages have seen career lows.
Indian bowling has proved itself as a well-rounded unit in the past three series (9 Tests in 2020/21), but such has been the level of difficulty for the batsmen that their proud batting averages have seen a dip. Two of the series were in New Zealand and Australia with the third, the home series against England, reaching its conclusion with the fourth and final game starting in Ahmedabad on Thursday.
It is not that the Indian batsmen haven’t played any impactful innings during this period. Ajinkya Rahane called his 112 at Melbourne his best ever. Cheteshwar Pujara stonewalled Australia at Sydney and Brisbane, playing his part in an unforgettable series win. Virat Kohli’s 74 at Adelaide and 62 in the Chennai second Test were such high percentage innings that they drew critical acclaim. Kohli also scored 72 in the first Test against England.
Beyond this show of grit and brilliance though, India’s three best Test batsmen could not muster notable scores during this period. Their batting averages have been their worst ever, or matched their poorest phase, across fairly long careers. Rahane averages 27.75 in these nine Tests and Pujara 28.64, while Kohli’s average is 26.18 in six Tests (missed 3 Tests in Australia). The trio has been the backbone of Indian batting through the past decade after Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar retired close to each other.
Rahane, who averages 41.41 in his 72 Tests, has only once before slumped to a poorer return in a calendar year. That was in 2018 when he averaged only 24.27 in six Tests, largely due to a quiet tour of England. In the same season, he was dropped for the first two Tests in South Africa.
For Pujara, it was the poor tour of England in 2014 when he averaged only 22.20. That apart, India’s dependable No.3 has overcome hurdles with elan, averaging 46.81 in his 84 Tests.
Kohli has been simply sublime all along except for a horror run in the England tour of 2014 when he had only 134 runs to show in five Tests. His calendar average in 2014 came down to 26.76. Apart from that, he has been outstanding year after year, registering a batting average of 52.74 in 90 Tests.
Kohli scored his last Test century 467 days before the start of the final Test in Ahmedabad, on Day 2 of the pink-ball Test against Bangladesh at Eden Gardens on November 23, 2019.
So, while India has had good results (barring the 0-2 loss in New Zealand) in these nine Tests separated by the lockdown - win in Australia, leading 2-1 against England - the batting stats have taken a beating in bowler-friendly conditions.
In New Zealand, it was the characteristic movement in the air and off the turf. There were challenging batting conditions throughout in Australia, and now spinner-friendly dusty turfs in India. The career graph of India’s most successful batting trio of the day is proof enough; if Test cricket was consistently played on bowler-friendly pitches, it would take some sheen off batting glory.
In the last two series, India have also found two outliers - the explosive Rishabh Pant and Rohit Sharma, who is finally establishing his class as a Test opener. While Rahane, Pujara and Kohli are averaging below 30 in this phase, Pant’s batting average is 41.91 for 503 runs (top Indian scorer). Beyond the averages, his 97 at Sydney, 89* at Brisbane and 91 at Chennai were such breath-taking innings, they promise so much more ahead.
Sharma showed glimpses of a newfound Test gear in Australia. In the current series, he has been in full flight, underlined by his 161-run first innings knock in the second Chennai Test.