Ajinkya Rahane’s troubles with the bat are not lost on anyone who watches him in the middle these days and with Virat Kohli all set to come back into the playing XI for the Mumbai Test against New Zealand, there are question marks over whether the vice captain should retain his place.
It might not have been as clear-cut a decision had Rahane scored runs in Kanpur. But he posted scores of 35 and 4 in the drawn opening Test and has averaged just 19.6 in 2021.
On the other hand, Shreyas Iyer, who made his Test debut batting at No 5, put in a stellar performance. He made 105 in the first innings and then followed it up with a vital 65 in the second innings. In the process, he became the first Indian player to score a century and half century on Test debut.
Indian cricketer Dinesh Karthik believes that dropping Rahane from the team for the Mumbai Test might help ease some of the pressure off the 33-year-old veteran.
“With Shreyas Iyer coming in and doing so well, I think the pressure will obviously be on Rahane and he might be the one to be dropped,” Karthik said in a discussion with Cricbuzz. “This has happened during a tour of South Africa when Rahane was dropped for a game before he again came back. There is no harm if Rahane’s dropped for a game.”
Iyer, batting where Rahane usually does for India, seemed in complete control against pace and spin alike and the manner in which he controlled the tempo of his innings was truly impressive.
Karthik further added: “Iyer has literally taken India to the safe zone in this Test on his own. He’s done really well. And it’s not like Rahane has not been among the runs in 1-2 Tests. It has been going on for a long time now. I don’t think it’s such a bad thing for him to be dropped. It will ease some of the pressure on him.”
And Karthik believes that the pressure is not just on Rahane. The value of experience has to be seen in the scores produced in the middle. While Rahane has struggled on that front, so has Cheteshwar Pujara.
“I do think a similar sort of baggage is there on (Cheteshwar) Pujara too,” said Karthik. “He hasn’t got a hundred in a long time. And since the start of 2020, he too has averaged in the mid-20s. These are two players who have set their standards very high. They would know they haven’t performed according to expectations.”
If India are looking for a like-for-like replacement there is Hanuma Vihari waiting in the wings as well. The right-hander has huge reserves of patience too. He was overlooked for the home series against New Zealand but is part of the India A squad touring South Africa.
At the end of the day, seniority doesn’t count for much if it can’t be backed up with performances, especially with deserving youngsters waiting for a chance. Dravid and Kohli will know that better than most and it remains to be seen if the message is passed on to Rahane or whether the rope gets longer.