Former India opener Wasim Jaffer is confident Ajinkya Rahane will regain his touch in the two-Test series against New Zealand starting in Kanpur on Thursday, going by the form the Mumbaikar displayed in the recent Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy domestic T20 competition.
Jaffer told ESPNcricinfo:
"It'll be a crucial series for Ajinkya Rahane. He hasn't been consistent since his century in Melbourne (in December last year). However, I liked the fact that he played for Mumbai in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and even scored consecutive 70+ scores. So he'll be in a good frame of mind. These two Test matches against New Zealand will be a huge opportunity for him and he'll be fired up. If he gets a good start, he'll definitely be looking at that three-figure mark."
Rahane, who will lead in the first Test in the absence of the rested Virat Kohli, had scores of 75, 54, 17, 69 and 71 in the recent Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
Jaffer opined that the current Indian lineup appears a little suspect in turning conditions at home.
"Even though saying India has quality batting, I feel that in Indian conditions, Indian batters have fallen short. I don't feel like we have had that similar quality of Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and (VVS) Laxman against spin for a few years now. But again, even this batting will post a lot of challenges for this (NZ) bowling attack," he said.
"I'll pick Umesh Yadav over Ishant Sharma for his ability to reverse swing" - Wasim Jaffer picks his playing XI for first Test
Jaffer picked his India XI for the first Test.
"I'll go with two young openers in Mayank Agarwal and Shubman Gill. Then Cheteshwar Pujara at No 3. It'll be a crucial series for Pujara as well," domestic giant Jaffer said.
Jaffer chose Shreyas Iyer at No 5 instead of Suryakumar Yadav.
"Ajinkya Rahane in his No 4 slot. I'll follow up with Shreyas Iyer ahead of Suryakumar Yadav as Iyer was in the squad before Suryakumar came in. My 'keeper will be Wriddhiman Saha," Jaffer added.
The former India opener chose three spinners and two pacers.
"At 7 Ravindra Jadeja. Ravichandran Ashwin will be my next spinner and Axar Patel, who did brilliantly against England, will be my last spinner. All the spinners are excellent batters as well, so the batting doesn't seem to be an issue. They look like a solid, solid team," he continued.
Jaffer selected Mohammed Siraj as his first-choice pacer.
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"Mohammed Siraj will be my first seamer. And lastly, at No 11, I'll pick Umesh Yadav. Yes, Ishant Sharma has more than 100 Test caps to his name, but Umesh has done brilliantly in Indian conditions. Moreover, Umesh's ability to reverse swing the old ball will be crucial. So, this is my playing XI for the first Test match against New Zealand."