Former Pakistan captain Salman Butt reckons playing on challenging batting surfaces in South Africa has negatively impacted the thought process of Indian openers KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal.
Rahul and Agarwal began the series with 123 and 60 respectively in the first innings at Centurion. However, they have struggled for fluency since. Rahul managed a fifty in the loss in Johannesburg but Agarwal’s uncertainty outside the off-stump has been exposed time and again.
Analyzing the woes of the openers in South Africa, Butt opined that Rahul and Agarwal’s issues are more mental than technical. Speaking on his YouTube channel, the former cricketer explained:
“Indian openers were in very good form (when the series started) but when you play on testing pitches consistently, at times, your thought process gets disturbed. This is what has happened to Rahul and Agarwal. If you compare Rahul and Agarwal with (Cheteshwar) Pujara and (Virat) Kohli, it’s the footwork that’s the big difference.”
Reflecting on the openers’ cheap dismissals in the second innings in Cape Town on Wednesday, the 37-year-old pointed out the lack of footwork displayed by the duo. Butt, himself a former opener, elaborated:
“Both KL Rahul and Agarwal were stuck in the crease against full length balls. They should have been forward but their feet are not moving. Extra bounce is playing on their minds. It’s not about the technique but the thought process.”
While Rahul was back in the pavilion after scoring 10 on Wednesday, Agarwal managed only seven before losing his wicket.
“India need another Kohli special” – Salman Butt
The visitors fought back well after losing their openers to end the day on 57 for 2, extending their lead to 70. Pujara and Kohli battled out a tricky period towards the close of play on Day 2 in Cape Town.
According to Butt, with the pitch continuing to pose problems, India will need another special knock from Kohli to set a challenging target for the Proteas. The ex-cricketer stated:
“The pitch is highly challenging for batters and both sides are struggling. India need another Kohli special. Both him and Pujara are playing very well. People keep saying that these cricketers, who are not in form, should be dropped. But they tackled a tricky period towards the end of play really well. India need to bat till tomorrow (Thursday) evening to post a challenging target of around 250. They can then put South Africa under pressure.”
Also ReadArticle Continues below
At Stumps on Day 2, Kohli was unbeaten on 14 off 39 balls and Pujara on 9 off 31 deliveries.