What's the story?
Team India captain Virat Kohli has hinted at playing Ajinkya Rahane at No.4 during the six-match ODI series against South Africa, set to start with the first game on February 1.
"We have said that Rahane is the third opener in ODIs. But that might change. He plays pace very well and has batted at no.4 in WC before. So this could be an option going ahead," Kohli said a day before the first game.
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Rahane has been the designated third-choice opener for a while now, filling in when either of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, both first-choice openers in ODIs, have been unavailable.
Of the 84 ODIs Rahane has played, he has batted as an opener 54 times while coming in at No.4 on 20 occasions.
The heart of the matter
"We have more or less sorted out core players for key positions since the Sri Lanka tour. I would say middle order (specifically No.4) is the only spot we are looking for experimentation at the moment," Kohli added.
The Indian team has been extensively trying out batsmen at No.4 in the recent past in ODIs, trying out options like Manish Pandey, KL Rahul, and Yuvraj Singh, amongst others.
With the Test series having ended 2-1 in favour of the hosts, India will be looking to get back on track in the ODIs, starting with the first game at Kingsmead, Durban.
India has never won an ODI at the venue against South Africa.
While Rahane has received flak for his sluggish innings at the top of the order, a demotion down the order could actually do wonders to his ODI career, and help the Indian team find an anchor they are so desperately lacking. Although he did not perform extremely well at the No.4 spot during the World Cup in 2015, barring a 79 against South Africa at Melbourne,his scores at the same position post the global event had been promising. His last four returns at No.4 read 47, 87, 89 and 50.
Rahane has ample experience of handling tricky situations and seems the ideal fit at the crucial spot, especially because the other candidates for the same, over the last year and a half, have been largely dismal.Published 31 Jan 2018, 17:44 IST