Ravi Shastri opens up on Ajinkya Rahane's exclusion in first two South Africa Tests
What's the story?
Head coach Ravi Shastri has explained the team management's contentious decision to play Rohit Sharma over Ajinkya Rahane during the first two Tests of the recently completed series against South Africa. In addition to the technically compact batsman's indifferent form prior to the series, the 55-year old also revealed that Rahane had been struggling in the nets too.
In a candid chat with TOI, Shastri asserted, "Right from the beginning, there was no doubt in the mind of the team management that Rohit was the batsman in form while Ajinkya was struggling not just on the field but in the nets too."
"Rohit was averaging more than 200 in Tests and had scored around 1200-odd runs in ODIs. So, what does the team tell him? Your runs don't matter because that's how it works? Performances count and that makes this whole talking point a no-brainer. We all know what Ajinkya is capable of. But before coming here, he was averaging about 30 all through 2017."
Prior to the start of their gruelling tour of South Africa, many experts felt that Rahane's stellar overseas record would make him an asset to the Indian team on challenging surfaces. However, the visitors surprised one and all by dropping him and persisting with Rohit for the first two Tests in Cape Town and Centurion.
The heart of the matter
With the surface at Cape Town evincing plenty of seam movement, Rohit struggled to come to terms with the conditions and could only muster 21 runs across both innings. On a relatively easier pitch at Centurion, the elegant right-hander fell for 10 in the first innings before scoring a 74-ball 47 when the game was all but over. India lost both matches and surrendered the series.
For the third Test at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg, the team management removed Rohit from the playing eleven and brought in Rahane. The latter vindicated the decision by contributing a crucial 68-ball 48 on a treacherous track. His partnership with Bhuvneshwar Kumar helped swell India's lead in the second innings. The visitors protected their Test mace by sealing a famous 63-run triumph.
Following the memorable Test victory in Johannesburg, India continued their turnaround by cruising to a six-wicket triumph in the first ODI in Durban. While skipper Virat Kohli notched a fluent century, Rahane chipped in with a vital 86-ball 79. The two teams will return to Centurion for the second ODI on Sunday.
Factoring his overseas record into account, Rahane should have played the first two Tests. Even though Rohit had been in scintillating form ahead of the series, his runs had come against an underwhelming Sri Lankan bowling attack on placid tracks in India.