India faces Ajinkya Rahane conundrum ahead of Mumbai Test

India legend Gundappa Viswanath says that with Shreyas Iyer in top form, the team management could look at giving a ‘break’ to off-colour Rahane.

India batsman Ajinkya Rahane in action against New Zealand in Kanpur.   -  PTI

Ajinkya Rahane broke into India’s Test side in 2013 and has featured in 79 outings. But he is yet to play on his home turf at the Wankhede Stadium.

He came closest to featuring in a Test at home in 2016 – when India played England – but he sustained an avulsion fracture on his right index finger, ruling him out of the series. It has been a long wait for Jinks and the city, but Test cricket finally returns to Mumbai.

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But as India takes on New Zealand in the second Test at the Wankhede Stadium from Friday, will Jinks break the jinx? That’s a tricky question, with Rahane’s recent form. Averaging just 19.57 in the last 21 innings, Rahane has been out of sorts for a while, and his last hundred came in the Boxing Day Test against Australia at the end of 2020.“I think with both Ajinkya and (Cheteshwar) Pujara, we know that they have a lot of experience. They played enough cricket, and we also know as a team that they are one inning away from coming back into form. Everyone is behind them and backing them,” India’s bowling coach Paras Mhambrey said on Wednesday. “We know that the value they bring to the team, the experience that they have will come good.” 

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Mhambrey’s statement comes a few days after Dravid, too, had spoken on similar lines. Soon after the first Test in Kanpur – where Rahane, who led the team in the absence of Virat Kohli, scored 35 and 4 – Dravid said he was “not worried” about Rahane’s form. “You would like more runs from Ajinkya. I am sure he would like a few more runs. He is a quality player. He has done well for India in the past. He is one of those guys who has that quality. He has the experience. Hopefully, it’s just a matter of an innings, a matter of a game where he can turn it around.” Dravid said.

Who makes way for Kohli?

With Virat Kohli returning for the second Test, the question is – who will make way for Kohli? Will it be right to leave out Shreyas Iyer – who had a memorable debut in Kanpur – or will the team management look at giving a break to either Rahane, Pujara or will it be Mayank Agarwal?

Former India international and erstwhile selection committee chairman, Gundappa Viswanath, believes that it won’t be wise to drop Iyer.

“It is tricky, but you cannot leave out Shreyas. It is not just that he got a hundred, it is about how he got the hundred. He also played very well in the second innings, and on both the times, India needed those runs,” Viswanath told Sportstar.

“The way he plays his cricket shows his maturity. He has played first-class cricket for a while and has more than 4,000 runs, so he applied that in Test cricket. He has played a lot of ODIs and T20s, but at the same time, he came into the Test scene and straightaway showed his class and temperament,” Viswanath stated.

Viswanath understands the predicament of the team management and the selectors. “You have to drop somebody, but I don’t know who that person will be. Just imagine when Rohit (Sharma) comes in, (KL) Rahul comes in, then what happens? It is a healthy competition and a headache for the selectors. I also don’t understand people taking rests for Test matches,” he said. “Rahane is not among runs. He had captained when Virat was not there. It’s all up to the management, how they look at this. But I think you can give him a break now because Shreyas is around.”

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