“Rohit only has 31 runs to his name in three innings and the axe is certainly looming over him. With just a game to go in the series, it will be interesting to see if Rahane gets a chance to feature at Johannesburg. But India certainly missed a trick in not playing him in the first two games”.
Rohit over Rhanae – quite baffling!
Prior to the start of the Test series, there were speculations regarding Ajinkya Rahane’s inclusion in the playing XI because of his poor form. But, there was a sense of certainty for the stylish Mumbai lad considering his record overseas. Rahane had a terrible run against Sri Lanka at home, but seldom doubt his abilities on alien land. He has been India’s best Test batsman overseas and inspires immense confidence at the crease under taxing conditions.
When India named their playing XI for the first Test, many eyebrows were raised when Rahane wasn’t in the scheme of things for India. India opted for a firing Rohit Sharma in the middle-order, a move that was justified since the maverick batsman got ample of runs against Sri Lanka. One wouldn’t be wrong in saying that this was the best Rohit has batted in his career, he was at his peak, scoring runs in heaps.
Rohit was in red-hot form but failed to replicate his magical performance at Cape Town, scoring 11 and 10 respectively. Probably, the bowling attack here was far more threatening than the one he faced back in India a few weeks ago. He showed good resistance in the first innings, but Rabada was too hot for him to handle. While in the second innings, he got a reprieve, but couldn’t make the most of it.
Conditions were testing, but one can imagine Ajinkya Rahane thrive. He has the numbers for backing and has proved his worth in the past. In saying so, not a single question is being raised regarding Rohit’s potential, it’s just that Rahane would have been a better option.
India lost the Cape Town encounter by 72 runs and with the series being played over just three games, there was hardly any breathing space for India and needed to make amends. Their bowling clicked at Cape Town, but batting let them down big time. They needed to make changes that will assure runs as time was running out. Centurion was going to be a do-or-die encounter for them and need a draw, to say the least. For their survival, batting needed to churn out big runs.
The conditions at Cape Town were seam friendly and many expected it to be the same in the games to come. There were talks regarding Rahane’s inclusion in the second game. He had scored runs in such conditions and if one goes by the instincts, Rahane should bat in the middle-order. But things didn’t change for Rahane at Centurion, India stuck with Rohit in the middle-order while KL Rahul was given a go instead of Shikhar Dhawan at the top. Kohli made an interesting move by dropping Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the best Indian bowler at Cape Town, for Ishant Sharma.
Kohli spoke about how it was all about finding the right balance and Rahane’s inclusion prior to the second Test. “It’s funny how things change in a matter of weeks or just about five days. Before the first Test no-one thought that he (Rahane) should be in the eleven and now suddenly people are looking at other option. For us, as a team, it’s all about finding the right balance. If players fit in the kind of balance we want to go in with as a side then they will fit in,” Kohli said in a pre-match press conference.
Speaking about Rahane’s inclusion in the playing XI, Kohli added, “I’m not saying that Ajinkya cannot or will not start in this game. Possibilities are all open at the moment and we shall decide after practice.” In saying so, hopes of Rahane taking guard at Centurion rose, only to be squandered at the toss.
India missed a trick
At Centurion, Rohit walked in to bat when India were in a crucial position. They were in a desperate need of a partnership, but Rohit fizzled out after early promise. Once again, Rabada got the better of him with a beauty. Rohit was trapped leg before to a delivery that shaped in and struck him on the back pad while he tried defending off the front foot. Rohit’s dismissal steered India to all sorts of trouble and questions continued to rise regarding hiss selection. On the other hand, many just fantasised the kind of impact Rahane would have had on this surface, which had something for the batsmen. He likes seam bowling more than spin.
Let’s take a look at Rahane’s record. He averages 33.63 at home and 53.44 overseas, which is a clear indication that he enjoys batting on foreign soil. He has played just two games in South Africa, averaging 69.66. Although a small sample size, but he did show the temperament to succeed here. In conditions like these, a batsman needs to exhibit monk-like temperament. He needs to make the bowler bowl to him and Rahane knows this art quite well.
Virat Kohli played exceptionally well to help India get close to South Africa’s total, but one should also remember India will be batting in the fourth innings, which in itself is a big challenge. Rohit has one last opportunity to justify his selection with a big score under his belt when India bat to chase the target for an equaliser.
Rohit only has 31 runs to his name in three innings and the axe is certainly looming over him. With just a game to go in the series, it will be interesting to see if Rahane gets a chance to feature at Johannesburg. But India certainly missed a trick in not playing him in the first two games.