The February 10 start for Ranji Trophy has offered a lifeline to veterans Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane to get their Test career back on track.
With Test series against Sri Lanka set to be played from first week of March after the T20s starting February 25, a big hundred in the Ranji Trophy will provide the confidence that they need and probably ensure that they retain their place in the Indian team.
The Elite group games will start from February 16 after the Plate group matches begin from February 10 and both under-fire seniors will get two matches at least to convince the selectors.
Both seasoned batters have already started training with the Mumbai and Saurashtra squad respectively and are determined to score the big runs that are expected of them.
In fact, both will be in opposite teams if they are part of the crucial Saurashtra-Mumbai fixture in Ahmedabad.
“Ajinkya is definitely looking forward to it. We have met a few times now, he has been practising with the Mumbai team. He has had about couple of sessions already. Looked absolutely in fine touch,” Mumbai coach Amol Mujumdar told PTI.
“We don’t have to look too much into the future but what is lying ahead of us is Ranji Trophy. They both are due for a big one. I feel it is just a question of confidence. Sometimes batting is nothing but confidence.
“If you can regain that confidence somehow. It will come only if you score a big hundred,” added Mujumdar.
BCCI president Sourav Ganguly also expects Pujara and Rahane to pile on the runs in the premier domestic competition.
Their prolonged inconsistent run has divided opinions with many saying it is time for the younger lot to replace them in the middle-order. The calls have only gotten louder following the loss in South Africa.
While Rahane has been working hard in the Mumbai nets, Pujara on Thursday had his first session with defending champions Saurashtra at the SCA Stadium in Rajkot.
Pujara batted for 90 minutes in the nets besides undergoing fitness training.
He specifically asked the pacers to bowl reverse swing.
“Pujara is not like other batters. He always has a specific plan when he walks into the nets. He is very meticulous in the way he trains. Today he wanted to practise against reverse swing which he may encounter in the Sri Lanka series,” Saurashtra coach Niraj Odedra told PTI.
Time may be running out for Pujara and Rahane but they have all the experience to tide over this tough phase.