Former India head coach Ravi Shastri didn’t mince his words as he talked about Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara’s poor shot selection on Day 4.
India’s run-chase against Australia in the World Test Championship got off to a brisk start, thanks to openers Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill. Chasing a mammoth 444-run target in the fourth innings, India needed all the runs they could get, and ensure that the Australian attack would have to earn their wickets.
After Shubman Gill was dismissed to a sharp and controversial Cameron Green catch, however, the Indian batters made some errors in judgement that cost important wickets, placing Australia in an even stronger position. Former Indian player and recent coach Ravi Shastri took senior batters Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara to task for their poor decision-making.
Sharma got out attempting a feeble sweep in Nathan Lyon’s first over of the innings, getting caught in front LBW. Only a couple of overs later, Cheteshwar Pujara would try to play an uncharacteristic ramp shot, getting it terribly wrong and toe-ending it to wicketkeeper Alex Carey off the bowling of Pat Cummins. Both had been batting well and confidently: Sharma was dismissed for 43(60), and Pujara was looking set on a fluent 27(47).
Speaking to Star Sports following the day’s play, Ravi Shastri said, “what’s amazed me, though, is the way that the pitch has behaved. Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara will be kicking themselves for playing the shots that they played. They were poor shots when they were batting beautifully.”
Talking about their shots in detail, Shastri said that Rohit should’ve been wary when Lyon came from around the wicket, as the off-spinner’s tactic was to bring the LBW dismissal into play.
“They were two poor shots. Nathan Lyon was going around the wicket to get the leg-before into play, so that’s the last shot that you would want to play. The ball wasn’t turning too much, you so you would be in trouble if you miss it. He would’ve been disappointed,” said Shastri.
“Pujara… you never expect that from Pujara. That’s a ‘get out’ shot. And he’s back in the hut.”
Ajinkya Rahane and Virat Kohli then combined forces in a recovery partnership, and carried their bats overnight on an Oval pitch that is certainly easing out but continues to have assistance for the Australian seamers.
“The pitch has eased out, the sting is gone, and it made batting a lot easier. Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane have been in no trouble whatsoever. They have batted beautifully and scored quite easily. It is about coming out tomorrow and weathering the storm in the first hour, that will be crucial for me,” said Shastri of India’s chances on day 5, with a steep 280 still left to chase down with only 7 wickets in hand.
Kohli was approaching half-century, batting on 44 and looking in good touch, while Rahane, who scored 89 in the first innings, looked equally comfortable. India scored at a rate of above 4 runs per over.