The selection dilemma: Rahane or Karun Nair?

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The selection dilemma: Rahane or Karun Nair?

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SportsCafe Desk

02/08/2017

The return of a fit Ajinkya Rahane means that Virat Kohli now has his trusted lieutenant back in the middle order. Indications from the team management suggest that he will make the playing XI in the Test against Bangladesh, but that would mean keeping out Karun Nair, last match's triple centurion.

In the April of 1930, Andy Sandham scored Test cricket's first ever triple century. Even though Sandham did something that was never done before in Test cricket, Sandham didn't get to play a match after. Getting dropped after hitting a triple century - that has happened only twice more in the last 87 years.  But now that it's almost certain that Ajinkya Rahane will play the Test match against Bangladesh starting tomorrow, and Karun Nair might become only the fourth person to get dropped right after scoring a 300.

After Rahane picked up a finger injury, Karun played the last two Test matches of the 5-match Test series against England, and in the last Test scored a brilliant 303, in only the third innings of his career, taking India to their highest ever innings total of 759, and enabling them to inflict another innings defeat after England had scored 477 in their first innings.

While Andy Sandham was 39-years-old, and thus making a comeback was harder for him, Karun Nair will, in all probability get more chances. But still, it will be disheartening for the 25-year-old to sit and watch from the sidelines as Ajinkya Rahane takes his place, even after he became only the second Indian to score a Test match 300 in the last innings he played.

Consistent performances in domestic tournaments had led Karun to finally making an appearance for India. He scored hundreds in quarter-final and semi-final in the 2013-14 Ranji season to help Karnataka lift their first Ranji Trophy in 15 years and then helped them retain it with a triple century in the 2014-15 final. Overall, in 42 first-class matches, he has scored 3226 runs at an average of over 53.

It's also remarkable to now think that Nair was originally picked to replace Rohit Sharma in the squad. Rohit had suffered a thigh injury while playing against New Zealand. He too was having a decent run with the bat, having scored three half-centuries, but was then sidelined. As Rohit is also expected to return for the Test series against Australia, the problem of plenty is soon about to get worse.

While it's good to see such cut-throat competition for a place in the middle order of the Indian team, it's hard not to feel sad for Karun. That is the thing about sport. Sometimes, just good performances are not enough to guarantee you a spot in the team. And while Karun did deserve that spot, keeping him the team might be unfair to Rahane too. Rahane has been one of India's most consistent Test batsmen over the past couple of years.

“Karun did well but we cannot ignore what Jinx (Ajinkya Rahane) has done over the past two years. He has put in lots of hard work and has performed,” captain Virat Kohli told a press conference on the eve of the one-off Test against Bangladesh.

Rahane is one of the few Indian batsmen who has managed to get runs in Away tests, scoring centuries in New Zealand, England, Australia and West Indies. In 2016, he played 10 Test matches and scored at an average 54.41, hitting two centuries and two half-centuries in the process.

Going by the statements of Kohli and coach Kumble, it's almost impossible to see Karun taking the field tomorrow against Bangladesh. While it is harsh on the youngster, he needs to take heart in the fact that he will now be seriously considered for the position in case Rahane fails to deliver. And that is exactly how it should be in a team sport. A healthy competition between players for limited spots is a hallmark of a great team.

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