SC Crossfire | Is Rohit Sharma’s inclusion over Ajinkya Rahane justified?

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SC Crossfire | Is Rohit Sharma’s inclusion over Ajinkya Rahane justified?

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SportsCafe Desk

01/05/2018

While the selection of Jasprit Bumrah grabbed all the headlines, the snub faced by Ajinkya Rahane seems to have taken the backseat in the excitement of Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s blistering start. Our in-house team looks at whether India got the decision right in the first game of the Freedom series.

Rahane who? Time to move on

By - Faizan Qadiri

It is absolutely absurd to make the claim that Rahane’s exclusion from the squad might be a mistake that could cost India dearly in the “first real” Test series they have had in over three years. While Rahane’s numbers do paint a picture of a man who can counter foreign conditions, possibly better than anyone in the Indian side, the argument that his form from three years ago weighs heavier than his current wasteful nature is foolish, to say the least. His form away from home might be 53.44, which eventually rises to 59.37 in South Africa, but his exploits in the season gone by can’t be ignored. Averaging a mere 34.62, with just one century, in 2017, was compounded by his average of 3.4 (YES, THREE POINT FOUR) in five innings against Sri Lanka at home. Just by looking at the numbers, you cannot select a player who had played well in foreign conditions three years ago over a guy who is arguably going through a purple patch of his career.

What is even worse is the sheer disrespect that Rohit Sharma has been shown due to the selection issue. It’s not like Rohit is a scrub. Before he picked up an injury against New Zealand, that ruled him out for almost six months in late 2016, he was finally looking like the player who could deliver on the potential that was promised with three fifties in five innings with two not out innings. He had become a mainstay in the team due to those performances and had he not picked up the injury, he might have replaced Rahane after the latter’s abject performances against England and decent performance against Australia. It is very easy to sympathize with Rahane, who will be slightly hard done by the snub, but if fans look at it objectively, the Indian management, like they have done the entire year, got the call bang on.

Sorry. Are you sure?

By- Bastab K Parida

Agreed that Rahane hasn’t performed as per the expectations in the last one year, but we can’t discount the fact that he has been India’s best batsman overseas, having averaged an incredible 53.44 away from home, and as quoted above, 59.37 in South Africa. Not long ago, in 2012-13, when India toured South Africa, Rahane, alongside Virat Kohli, didn’t throw his wicket away despite being subjected to the nonchalant and menancing pace-bowling of Dale Steyn. India's only win in their 13-Test marathon away run in England and Australia in 2014 and 2015 came on the back of a Rahane century on a green top at Lord’s.

Secondly, Rahane has got a very good footwork to counter the swinging conditions and has always been a better player of bouncing balls as compared to his fellow Mumbaikar. Every side needs players like him, frontrunners who demoralise opposition attacks by both soaking up the pressure when required or counter-attacking if needed (circa Lord's). Unlike Rohit, Rahane has a very good sense of off-stump and as you would have realised, it is very important as per the context of batting in the African conditions.

Since the beginning of his Test career, Rahane has always been touted as a bad player of spin bowling and has a difference of 16.55 when it comes to his away vs home average. So it is unfair to leave him out on the basis of his current form at home, where spinners are more deadlier. 

Another critical argument, but something that is rarely taken as a selection criteria, that goes in favor of Rahane is slip catching. Since the start of India's home season in 2016-17 against New Zealand, India have missed 37 catches in the slip-cordon, which doesn’t paint a good picture of the World No.1 team. India's problems accentuated since the beginning of 2012-13 when Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, possibly among the best slip fielders India has seen, disappeared from the scene. Now, who has been the most potent fielder in the cordon for India? Rahane. The others, Vijay and Kohli, are far behind him in terms of slip fielding having been highly wasteful and having dropped sitters throughout the last 2-3 years. In South Africa, in the seaming and bouncing conditions, the bowlers will constantly be creating chances and an assured slip cordon will keep the bowlers fresh. Imagine, how perfect it would be if Rahane would have been there!

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