India legend’s ‘Ajinkya Rahane’ bomb after selectors make U-turn

Indian batting great Sunil Gavaskar dropped a truth bomb after middle-order batter Ajinkya Rahane made a return to Team India’s Test squad for the forthcoming ICC World Test Championship final against Australia in June.

Ajinkya Rahane had been out of the Indian cricket team since January 2022 after a string of poor scores, including his last series against South Africa. The Indian selectors eventually dropped him from the series against Sri Lanka at home in February.

However, a consistent run with the bat in the domestic circuit followed by a series of sensational performances for the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the Indian Premier League (IPL) ensured Ajinkya Rahane’s comeback to the national set-up as the selectors were mightily impressed by his composure and ability to deliver the goods under pressure.

In the ongoing IPL, Ajinkya Rahane has been MS Dhoni’s go-to-man, with the 34-year-old continuously producing some of his most memorable batting displays when it mattered.

In a recent contest against the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) at the iconic Eden Gardens, he slammed a whirlwind 29-ball 71 to guide CSK to a score of 235 before leading the visitors to a 49-run victory over the hosts. His knock included five massive sixes and six crisp boundaries.

In addition to Ajinkya Rahane’s form, luck has also gone by his side. With Shreyas Iyer out of action due to a back injury, the Mumbai resident got another shot at redemption as the Indian selectors recalled Ajinkya Rahane due to his record in England, where he has played some of his best Test knocks.

Ajinkya Rahane’s return to the India Test squad is all the more surprising given that he was excluded from the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s (BCCI) central contract list of players for the 2023-24 season last month. In the season earlier, he was a contracted player, with the BCCI handing him a Grade B contract.

Ajinkya Rahane was the senior pro who was one of the key players for Mumbai during the 2022-23 Ranji season. In the top domestic competition, the former India vice-captain made 634 runs in 11 innings, including two centuries at an average of 57.63.

“I don’t want to prove anything to anyone. I think my competition is with myself. If I stick to that, things will fall into place. I don’t want to run after anything… just want to back my game,” Rahane had said in response to a question about his return to the Indian side.

“That was the only change needed for the Indian side. They needed a replacement for Shreyas Iyer. Ajinkya Rahane finds himself in the WTC squad not because of his current IPL form, mind you, he was in a pretty decent form in the Ranji Trophy. He did very well for Mumbai in the domestic season. The question now is in the final eleven, who’s going to be playing? Whether it will be KS Bharat the wicket-keeper or KL Rahul. We’ll just have to wait and see,” Sunil Gavaskar told Star Sports.

“Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill will be my opening picks, Cheteshwar Pujara at three, Virat Kohli at four, Ajinkya Rahane at five, KL Rahul at six who’ll keep the wickets as well. Then there will be Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin, followed by Jaydev Unadkat, Mohammed Shami and Mohd Siraj,” Sunil Gavaskar concluded.

Two former national selectors, Sambaran Banerjee, and Raja Venkat, shared Sunil Gavaskar’s views.

“Rahane has proved in this IPL that he still has some days left as a national player. What a comeback! When nobody could imagine his return, he made it possible. He must be in the playing XI and the team can depend on him when the ball moves around on the seaming wicket. It’s a pity Jasprit Bumrah is not in the mix because of injury,” Sambaran Banerjee said in a conversation with Mid-Day.

“Rahane is in the team because of his technical abilities. He is in top form and I am sure India will benefit by his presence. I must congratulate the selectors for reposing trust in him,” Raja Venkat opined.

Even ex-Australian captain Aaron Finch backed Ajinkya Rahane’s inclusion in the World Test Championship squad.

“In big games, you want the option of players having plenty of experience. With Shreyas injured, and Rishabh also injured, which is very unfortunate, Rahane must be in the squad,” Aaron Finch told IANS.

“We all had seen how important he was in the Australia Test series (in 2020/21), when he took over the captaincy after Virat had come home. The calmness he brings, the experience and class he has, the overall demeanor with him in the squad becomes pretty important,” he elaborated.

Also, Murali Kartik expressed his happiness at Ajinkya Rahane’s return to the Rohit Sharma-led side.

“It’s difficult. We have to ask SS Das and co. on what were the weightages for selection. Because when you dropped Rahane, you said that he hadn’t scored for the past 20-30 innings. But the good thing is, every player can come back. Doors aren’t closed on anyone. Earlier, when you were out, it was impossible to make a comeback,” Murali Kartik told Cricbuzz.

“But I want to know, why wasn’t the same weightage given to Hanuma Vihari. He has done what selectors wanted. Yes, Rahane’s record is good, I’m the fan of the way he carries himself. But if this is the yardstick to select a player, Hanuma Vihari hasn’t done anything wrong. He had been good when he was dropped. Why wasn’t he seen with the same lens?” he asked.

“But yes, he’s in form. He’s a good player, there’s no doubt about that,” Murali Karthik said further.

India will take on Australia in the ICC World Test Championship final on June 7 at Kennington Oval in London. It would be India’s second consecutive title clash in the prestigious competition after losing the maiden edition to New Zealand in 2021.

India squad: Rohit Sharma (capt), Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, KL Rahul, KS Bharat (wk), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Jaydev Unadkat

The post India legend’s ‘Ajinkya Rahane’ bomb after selectors make U-turn appeared first on ClutchPoints.

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