India’s decision to play the Cape Town Test without Ajinkya Rahane had raised a lot of eyebrows, and the bold decision came under further scrutiny when the world number one Test side suffered two batting collapses to lose the series-opener by 72 runs.
Rahane has been one of India’s best performers in overseas Tests in recent times. While he averages a modest 36.88 at home, it soars up to more than 53 when he plays outside India. Six of his nine Test centuries have come outside India, as he has amassed 1817 runs in 24 overseas Tests.
Not surprisingly, many expected him to be in the playing eleven for the first Test against South Africa despite his poor performance in the last Test series against Sri Lanka at home.
While no one can say whether Rahane would have made a difference or not in Cape Town, the team’s decision to drop him has met with severe criticism. However, skipper Virat Kohli defended the decision, saying that the team preferred form over reputation.
“Well, we decided to go on current form. Rohit has scored runs in the last three Test matches that he has played, and he was batting well,” Kohli said after the 72-run loss. “We did that similar thing in the past and Shikhar as well. Look, these things can always be looked at in hindsight – thinking what if or what if not. But we decided to go with this combination and current form was definitely the criterion.
Rohit, who got picked ahead of Rahane, had a good series against Sri Lanka where he had scored a century and a couple of the fifties while Rahane managed only 17 runs in three Tests. Kohli further justified the selection of Shikhar Dhawan over KL Rahul.
“[With Dhawan] a left-hander always helps, that’s what we felt. They have got two, including Quinton (de Kock) in their batting order. I mean it’s difficult for the bowlers to set their lines and lengths every time with the strike rotating well. It has worked for us in the recent past, that’s something definitely is a combination that a lot of international sides want to go with these days, because you don’t want the bowlers to settle against one kind of batsmen and one line and length, especially with the new ball. We have to try and create plans that we feel will not let the opposition gain momentum very early on in the game and that’s the idea behind it.”
Both Dhawan and Rohit failed to justify their selections, as India were all out for just 135 in pursuit of 208 to lose the series-opener.
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