New Delhi: Ajinkya Rahane not in the playing XI of India may not sound shocking to an avid cricket follower as much as when the team is playing on an overseas platform. But Indian skipper Virat Kohli put his weight behind project Rohit Sharma going into both the Test matches in the three-match series against South Africa. And on Monday evening at Johannesburg, coach Ravi Shastri defended the team management’s decision to go with Rohit, citing the reason as “form”. (READ: Is India hinting towards an Ajinkya Rahane comeback in Johannesburg Test?)
Rahane was in the mind of most former cricketers and analysts of the game when they had picked up their set of playing XI for the Proteas opener. But surprise, surprise! Kohli went in with “in-form” Rohit Sharma instead of his Test deputy. And that left all of the cricket fraternity stunned, even South African captain Faf du Plessis joined the category. (HAVE A LOOK: Virat Kohli’s selection are interesting, controversial but are increasing TRPs of cricket: Sanjay Manjrekar)
Rahane, as numbers speak, is India’s best batsman on the overseas platform. Averaging at a staggering 53.44 on away pitches, the Maharashtra-based cricketer was surely an obvious choice. But he was excluded from the Tests at Cape Town and Centurion, with the management going for Rohit based on his “current form” as explained by Kohli
However, Rohit failed to stand up valiant against the stronghold South African pace attack. Scoring just 78 runs in four innings in India’s 2-0 drubbing in the ongoing series, Rohit along with the team, faced widespread criticisms.
“If Ajinkya (Rahane) had played the first Test and not done well, you would have asked me the same question about why Rohit hasn’t played. Rohit played, he didn’t do well, so you are asking me why Ajinkya didn’t play,” a defiant Shastri told reporters when queried about the selection policy.
“The same would have happened with the fast bowlers. So you have choices. The team management has discussed what is the best option. They stick by it and they go by it,” Shastri said.
“Overseas, you go on current form, you go on conditions. You see which player can adapt to certain conditions quicker than the other,” he added.
However, there might be possibility of a Rahane comeback in the Johannesburg Test match against the Proteas side. On a fresh Sunday afternoon at the Wanderers, Kohli, Rahane and Hardik Pandya were seen batting on adjacent strips while the Indian pacers kept them busy with their set of ammunition. Not only so, Rahane was witnessed to undergo an extended batting session on Monday, after everyone else had left.