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Ajinkya Rahane, Bhuvneshwar Kumar show Virat Kohli’s selection blunders

With a crucial partnership lower down the order, Ajinkya Rahane and Bhuvneshwar Kumar have put Indian cricket team in a winning position in the third Test vs South Africa cricket team at the Wanderers.

cricket Updated: Jan 26, 2018 21:40 IST
Somshuvra Laha
Somshuvra Laha
Hindustan Times, Johannesburg
South Africa vs India,SA vs IND,Ajinkya Rahane
South Africa cricket team's Kagiso Rabada (centre) looks on as Indian cricket team's Bhuvneshwar Kumar (left) and Ajinkya Rahane take a run on the third day of the third Test at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg on Friday. (AP)

Each of the three Tests in South Africa has presented India with a chance to win, none with as much promise as the one at the Wanderers. A mere glance at the scorecard will confirm how Ajinkya Rahane and Bhuvneshwar Kumar have put India in a winning position on Day 3. (India vs South Africa Day 3 Highlights | Scorecard)

But to think they didn’t get Virat Kohli’s backing because he was either hung up over ‘current form’ or swayed by bowling conditions is a sad reflection on how little thought is put into selection on a tour of such importance.

It remains to be seen if Kohli will accept he had erred or adamantly puts it down to plain luck and the advantage of hindsight. After all, Kohli did mention he doesn’t pay heed to ‘talk of the town’, even if that included cricket greats and not just journalists who aren’t thought to be qualified enough to write about cricket as they haven’t played the game.

BLOW TO BHUVI

This isn’t a collective ‘I-told-you-so’ moment for those who were scoffed at for giving an opinion but vindication of the skills Rahane and Kumar possess. Dropping a bowler who had taken the top four South African wickets in the first innings at Cape Town just because Centurion wasn’t seaming enough was a slap on Kumar’s bowling ability.

It sent a wrong message that even your best effort can’t save your place in the next Test. Not just his bowling, Kumar’s heart with the bat was easily forgotten too. He had scores of 25 and 13 in Cape Town, but more importantly featured in two stands -- 99 (with Hardik Pandya in the first innings) and 49 (with R Ashwin in the second innings). That partnership with Pandya is still India’s best in this series. That too didn’t matter when names were weighed for selection for the Centurion Test.

INVALUABLE STANDS

Here, Kumar stitched a 55-run partnership with Rahane before raising an invaluable 35-run stand with Mohammed Shami that has allowed India to come out with a spring in their steps. Oh, and Kumar also took three wickets, including AB de Villiers’ with possibly the ball of the series.

Rahane’s was an open-and-shut case, not just because he had the highest average among Indian batsmen outside Asia but he is the soldier you need on your side in a battle. And this tour has been nothing short of a war. To give away that position to a batsman who has no credentials outside Asia was a decision that made even the South Africans to scratch their heads. Once again, on a difficult pitch, Rahane showed why he is the man for all seasons, scoring 48.

If only Kohli had believed in him and Kumar, this series could have panned out differently.

First Published: Jan 26, 2018 21:35 IST