Wasim Jaffer, a former India opener, believes that crucial members of the team should play in the forthcoming Ranji Trophy round rather than Tuesday’s dead rubber match against New Zealand at Indore’s Holkar Stadium. The third and final match of the three-match ODI series between India and New Zealand is a dead rubber because India has an unbeatable 2-0 lead. In addition, the final round of league games for the Ranji Trophy will start on the same day.
While Virat Kohli and KL Rahul last played a Test match in December 2022 against Bangladesh, Rohit Sharma was last seen playing in the red-ball format in March 2022 against Sri Lanka at Bengaluru.
Players like Cheteshwar Pujara and Jaydev Unadkat are already playing in the Ranji Trophy for Saurashtra, ahead of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy series against Australia starting from February 9 in Nagpur.
“I think it (playing next round of Ranji Trophy) will make a lot of sense. If they play maybe one game – two innings in a Ranji game – that will surely help. No matter how experienced you are, you surely need that game time, especially in red ball cricket. You don’t want to be undercooked when you play that first Test.”
“It’s a huge series from all perspectives – whether it’s the World Test Championship (WTC) final that India can get into or can become world number one Test side as well. India need to do everything that they can so they are ready for that first Test match. Virat Kohli hasn’t played a lot of Test cricket for a while; Rohit and a lot of others as well,” Jaffer was quoted as saying by ESPNCricinfo.
Jaffer also feels that wicketkeeper-batter KS Bharat, currently in India’s ODI squad, should be released to play in Andhra’s next match in Ranji Trophy, as he’s highly unlikely to feature in the Indore ODI with Ishan Kishan in the playing eleven.
Both Bharat and Kishan are named in India’s Test squad for the first two Tests against Australia in the absence of Rishabh Pant, who is recovering from multiple injuries suffered in a horrific car accident on December 30.
“(It is) more likely that KS Bharat is not going to play the third ODI. It makes sense to send him to play that Ranji game. He is more likely to play in place of Rishabh Pant. He has big shoes to fill. He is going to play a lot of Test cricket in Pant’s absence.”
Jaffer signed off by expressing surprise over New Zealand being bowled out for just 108 in the eight-wicket loss to India in the second ODI at Raipur, while praising fast bowlers Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj.
“Surprising to see New Zealand fizzle out like that. It was a pretty good pitch, although it wasn’t a high-scoring one. The tentativeness in New Zealand’s batters probably made India look a lot better, but Siraj and Shami, especially, bowled very well. India really outplayed them with another fine performance.”