India in South Africa: Time for Ajinkya Rahane to return?


first_imgOne of the biggest gambles which India took with its selection in the first Test was to play Rohit Sharma ahead of Ajinkya Rahane in the playing XI against South Africa at Newlands.That move raised a lot of eyebrows even though captain Virat Kohli justified the decision by saying that Rohit was selected on current form.WATCH: SPORTS TODAY”Well, we decided to go on current form,” Virat Kohli said after the match. “Rohit had scored runs in the last three Test matches that he has played, and he was batting well, even in the series against Sri Lanka. We did that similar thing in the past with Shikhar (Dhawan) as well.”Look, these things can always be looked at in hindsight – thinking what if or what if not. But we decided to go with this combination, and current form was definitely the criteria.”Rohit was impressive early on during his knock in the first innings as he batted patiently and gave good support to Cheteshwar Pujara.India needed solidarity and application from the batsmen early on Day 2 and that is exactly what Rohit did by weathering the early storm along with Pujara. India had lost Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli but it had started to look like Rohit and Pujara, two players with contrasting styles, would bail them out.However, just when Rohit was looking comfortable at the crease, an incoming delivery from Kagiso Rabada hit his pads plumb in front of the stumps and he was on his way back to the pavillion.advertisementIn the second innings as well Rohit looked good when he was building a partnership with Kohli but both batsmen departed in quick succession to leave India reeling.Which brings us to the question once again – will India include Rahane in the team now?Rahane has not been among the runs recently but he had a successful tour of South Africa four years ago. With 209 runs, he was third highest run-getter in the series behind Kohli (272 runs) and Pujara (280). He narrowly missed out on his maiden ton on that tour getting out for 96 in the Durban Test.Since his debut in 2013, Rahane has played 24 Tests away from home scoring 1817 runs at an average of 53.44 with 6 hundreds and 9 fifties. Three of those hundreds have come against Australia (1), England (1) and New Zealand (1) while the rest are against Sri Lanka (2) and the West Indies (1).Unlike other Indian batsman, Rahane’s average actually slips in home conditions as was evident in the recent Test against series against Sri Lanka where he only managed just 17 runs in 3 matches.The 29-year-old has played 19 Tests at home and amassed 1009 runs at an average of 33.63 with 3 tons and as many half-centuries.Former India captain Sourav Ganguly though, is of the opinion Rohit should be given another chance while Rahane could also get a look in.”I don’t think Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri will change the team straightaway. There is a possibility that one of them (Ajinkya Rahane or KL Rahul) may come back. It could be Ajinkya Rahane in the middle in place of Rohit Sharma and there’s a possibility of KL Rahul coming at top of the order. India will have to bottle down and fight hard in the batting.”I would actually play five bowlers and play KL Rahul in place of Shikhar Dhawan. Rahul because he has done well in overseas conditions. I would give Rohit Sharma one more opportunity,” Ganguly told India Today.Interestingly, a day after South Africa won the Cape Town Test, Rahane was one of four players to take the nets. There was intensity at training and Rahane was focussed – he knows he will be under pressure to get some runs if he does make a comeback.Post game day and back to the grind #TeamIndia BCCI (@BCCI) January 9, 2018It will all depend on what the team-management wants. Would they look to strengthen the middle-order by playing an extra batsman or will they sacrifice one of their pacers? Or will they drop Rohit after just one Test match? These can’t be easy decisions to make.The second Test will be played at Centurion from Saturday and India’s top five will have to pull their socks up and reignite the spark to have a shot at atleast drawing the series if not winning.last_img read more