India Test captain Virat Kohli supported veterans Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane ahead of the third Test against South Africa at Newlands in Cape Town. Pujara and Rahane came under heavy pressure from a prolonged meager patch in Test cricket, but the veteran campaigners counterattacked 1950s India’s second innings in the second Test in Johannesburg to show their class. Pujara and Rahane’s 111-run third wicket score was one of the main reasons India was able to give South Africa a 240-run goal. It wasn’t enough, though, as the hosts chased it down with seven wickets in hand, riding an unbeaten 96 by captain Dean Elgar to tie the series.
Pujara, who hasn’t scored a 100 in over two years, scored an offensive 53 with the Wanderers. Rahane, on the other hand, scored his first fifty in four Tests. Kohli said their experience in overseas conditions is “priceless”.
“If you look at the last test, especially in the second, both Rahane and Pujara (hit very well) … That experience is priceless for us. In a series like this, where you know these guys do the work in the have done in the past. When you play abroad in difficult conditions these guys will always perform better. We saw that in Australia. We saw that in the last test. These are crucial punches in crucial scenarios. That has a lot of value Kohli said during the pre-game press conference on the eve of the series decider.
The likes of Hanuma Vihari and Shreyas Iyer have been knocking on doors to take the place of the middle order permanently in Test cricket, but Kohli believes the “transition should happen naturally” and not “forced” on individuals.
“I can’t tell exactly when we’ll have a transition. The game itself is kind of like things happening naturally. It can’t be forced. Conversations about transitions can’t be forced. We need to let transitions happen naturally rather than from forcing it on a person,” Kohli added.
The prolific right-hander also cleared any doubts about his fitness and confirmed his availability for the Cape Town Test.
“I’m absolutely fit,” Kohli, who had missed the Johannesburg test due to a back spasm, said Monday.
However, he added that Siraj will not appear in the match after suffering a hamstring injury in Johannesburg, where India lost by seven wickets.
“Siraj is clearly recovering from the (hamstring) problem he had in the last game and at the moment I don’t think he is match ready to take the field in the third test.
“Obviously you can’t risk a man who isn’t at 110 percent as a fast bowler and we know how important that is as the little problem he had can turn into an injury,” said the skipper.
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