Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara have been struggling for consistency on this England tour. There's been a lot written about it. The bottom-line is - one has to start leaving deliveries while the other has to show intent to play more balls.
Whenever the Test No.3 has had a firm control of his innings, India had invariably done well. But, it's been close to three years since Pujara registered a three-figure score. He hasn’t scored a century since India's Australia tour in 2018. The impact of that burden has left him short of confidence.
His scores of 4, 12*, 9, 45, and 1 in the five innings so far in this series has raised a lot of questions and that despite the 45 he notched up at Lord's along with the key 100-run partnership with Ajinkya Rahane that set the tone for India to script a stunning turnaround.
West Indies legend Brian Lara has broken down what's missing in his game, but this is something to work on in the longer run.
"Pujara, definitely for me, I mean as a batsman, I am not the same as a player, that ability to be so patient and score at such a low strike rate. So, for me, if I was a coach or if I was someone that wanted Pujara to improve, I would try to create a lot more shots and try to score a strike rate that is more beneficial to him and the team.
"He does the job, and I know the job he does, but I just feel that when you bat that slowly, there are a lot of momentum swings in your innings and you allow the bowlers so many deliveries at yourself, even before you get to three figures -- that you are going to find yourself coming up short a lot of times," pointed out Lara.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan too has come down hard at the 33 year old. “Pujara looks all at sea. Looks like he has lost his mind, lost his technique. Looks to me like he is playing purely for survival."
Simply put, Pujara has to play every ball by merit.
Cut to Kohli. The India skipper has scored just 42 runs in four innings in the ongoing Test series, averaging just 17.25. It has been 50 innings without a century for Kohli in international cricket. The drought has stretched way too long since November 2019. We can keep stacking up such stats one after the other. But what's Kohli doing wrong?
"I did a masterclass for Sky with Virat when he said he had made a change to his technique after a disappointing tour of England in 2014. In that series Kohli's back foot was not moving how he wanted it to, his alignment was horribly wrong and he was nicking too many balls," said Nasser Hussain, referring to the masterclass video of January 2017.
"So when he came back four years later he made sure that back foot was much squarer and pointing towards cover point. It led to a much more prolific series against Anderson and Co but now his back foot is not moving the way he wants again," added the former England captain.
"Kohli was also leaving a lot of balls in 2018 and said that you have to put your ego away in England. I'm not saying he hasn't done that now but his brain is a bit scrambled and he's playing at a lot of deliveries he could leave," concluded Hussain.
We need the champion Kohli to rise to the occasion at Headingley.
England skipper Joe Root registered his 23rd Test ton and with a match-winning lead in their kitty England will come out all guns blazing. But if Kohli and Pujara stand tall, you never know.