Kohli refuses to ‘confuse’ Rahane with middle-order spot

Despite scoring four fifties in a row against Australia, Ajinkya Rahane will have to cool his heels against New Zealand, owing to the return of Shikhar Dhawan.

Ajinkya Rahane, with 244 runs, was the second-highest run-getter for India in the recently concluded ODI series against Australia.   -  Vivek Bendre

Most batsmen with a string of four fifties in as many ODIs will be a certainty in their respective teams. Not Ajinkya Rahane, though. Despite putting up a sterling show as Shikhar Dhawan's replacement during the Australia series, the Mumbai batsman will have to cool his heels.

With Rahane's impressive form, his record at No. 4 being better than his overall record and India's struggle for a reliable No. 4 batsman, there may well have been a case for Rahane being switched into a middle-order batsman's role, similar to the one K. L. Rahul donned for a while before being omitted from the squad. Captain Virat Kohli, however, clarified that Rahane, who incidentally scored a 58-ball 87 at No. 4 during India's last ODI at Wankhede two years ago, will have to wait for his chance at the top.

Rahane ‘at the doorstep’

“He (Rahane) has definitely grabbed his opportunities as the third opener. As I mentioned, there was K. L. as well competing for the spot for a bit, but Jinks (Rahane) has really performed well, stood up and taken his chances. That's how the dynamics of the team work, where there are four guys who play in a similar position, obviously one of them will have to miss out,” Kohli said on the eve of the series-opener against New Zealand.

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“Even in the three, only two can play in the XI. I don't want to confuse him too much [by] making him play in the middle order. You need to find your game in ODI cricket. You need to understand how to go about things in ODI cricket and he's been very solid at the top order because of his technique. And he likes playing there as well. It gives him freedom to go after the bowlers. We don't want to confuse him. He's in a happy space, whenever someone is not going through a good phase or there is an injury, he's there. He is right at the doorstep waiting to play a game whenever the team requires him to. He's pretty happy with his batting at the moment.”

‘Strong pool’

With the spin troika of Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav and Axar Patel grabbing their opportunities with the white ball, the door seems to be virtually shut on R. Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja, India's premier spin bowlers, for the remaining limited-overs home season. Kohli hinted that Ashwin and Jadeja could well be preferred for Test cricket for the next few series.

“It's been a combination of both, giving guys the chances and understanding the workloads of players who have played for a while. Ashwin and Jadeja have played limited-overs cricket for us regularly for (the) last six-seven years. These youngsters have stepped up; it creates a strong pool for us before [the] World Cup,” Kohli said. “Contrary to a lot of things being said left, right and centre, we understand how the dynamics of this team work best. That is something very hard to explain otherwise. People only count results. Right now, we are getting them; we are very happy.”

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