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India is playing their first test series in one of the big four test cricket nations, viz. Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and England, in almost three years. The last time they played was down under in Australia in 2015. The management has not left a stone unturned, when it comes to the preparation and the overall team selection. Best of the in-form and capable players have travelled to the African land. Vijay, Dhawan and Rahul have been consistent test batting experts in the opening, Pujara and Kohli have proved their caliber in the middle order. Hard hitting Hardik Pandya is the latest sensation and best fit for lower middle order. Bowling unit looks intact with the presence of star bowlers like Ashwin, Shami, Kumar and the debutant Bumrah. However the middle order looks incomplete without Ajinkya Rahane. There is no second thought as far as Ajinkya Rahane’s selection in the playing XI is concerned. The Mumbai hero is the current official vice-captain of the team, he has scored centuries throughout the world. He has scored runs in England, Australia, New Zealand and in South Africa, when India last toured these countries. He has the best average among all other batsmen in the side over the last 4-5 years in the longest format, with an average of 54 (min 20 innings).
Just a failure in the last home series played against Sri Lanka and Rahane missed out. It’s certainly unfair and not only that but India also missed out on a trick and saw the result of it through a poor batting display in the very first match of the tour. Now the fact of the matter is not just that Rahane deserved a spot but a question arises in whose place he would have played at all. Taking into consideration the solidity in the batting prowess of the openers, as well as the middle order batsmen in the team, it is not easy to remove someone out but definitely not difficult also to make a space somehow for Rahane. The 5th batting spot in the side was an opportunity, which Rahane deserved more than Rohit Sharma did. It is not to be taken for granted that the latter has played outstandingly in the shorter formats (with his 3rd double hundred in ODI’s and the joint fastest t-20 hundred in the last month), but certainly he has not been up to the mark as far as test cricket is concerned. The Hitman was given enough chances earlier as well under Dhoni’s captaincy and initial period of Kohli’s captaincy. It would not be wrong to say, he was not able to grab those opportunities and cement his place. Sharma may have scored runs against Sri Lanka in the 3 match test series, with a century as well. This will not qualify him to replace the deputy skipper who has been consistent since a long time, over that his performance came up against a mediocre Sri Lankan side at home.
Authors’ final say: All said and done, whether it was the management decision to play Sharma over Rahane or the captain had a lot to do in this case. It also might have been a collective decision but certainly not a logically correct one altogether. This is not the first instance of the management’s poor or inappropriate decision making, when it comes to the team selection. We have also seen in case of Karun Nair, who scored a brilliant triple hundred in just his third match and what made him loose his spot in the side for the very next series. The present perception might be realistic, that the team has got enough bench strength to its advantage. The question is what more can a player do in order to cement his place in the side. This not only may deprive the Indian team of some quality batting but also creates a sense of insecurity in the minds of several cricketers up and coming, those who are around playing well for a while now, as well as those players who are anticipating their well deserved opportunity to play for the country. The reader here, as well can make a conclusion for himself, as to whether it is not important to play a deserving candidate in the playing XI or it is more important to go with the momentary benefits of giving chance to a current sensation, which may or may not be a long lasting option, as far as the long run stability and success of the team is concerned.