Ajinkya Rahane, Dinesh Karthik comeback on the cards for 3rd Test vs South Africa

Wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik and vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane spent quality time at India’s first training session at Wanderers ahead of the third Test vs South Africa.

cricket Updated: Jan 21, 2018 21:15 IST
Somshuvra Laha
Somshuvra Laha
Hindustan Times, Johannesburg
Ajinkya Rahane,Dinesh Karthik,India vs South Africa
Ajinkya Rahane, who sat out of the first two Tests against South Africa, could make a comeback in the third at Wanderers.(PTI)

India returned to training after taking some days off post their series loss to South Africa in Centurion even as their counterparts chose to extend their party till Sunday. The Highveld sun has been beating down hard on the Wanderers and the pitch looks a lot less lush but India would be wary of this venue’s notoriety as a haven for seamers and fast bowlers.

The exact reason isn’t known yet but Shardul Thakur and Navdeep Saini’s arrival on Saturday evening could be attributed to this. On Sunday, both were seen bowling full steam at their seniors, with Saini almost getting the ball to rise awkwardly on a few occasions. There is little to play for apart from the cliched pride bit but India looked focused on getting their act right.

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Catching is one of the areas India looked far inferior to South Africa and so it wasn’t surprising to see them spending a long time on it. After fielding Wriddhiman Saha and Parthiv Patel in Cape Town and Centurion, a new wicket-keeper at Wanderers can’t be ruled out, especially going by the effort put in by Dinesh Karthik. Karthik was asked to keep to balls thrown at three rubber stumps placed at different positions on the pitch, the idea being to make the wicket-keeper as much alert as possible to all sorts of edges.

KL Rahul was hit on his left knee by a delivery from Ishant Sharma, prompting team physio Patrick Farhart to tend to him at the nets immediately. Though he returned to batting, Rahul was later seen with an ice pack strapped to his knees. Since there was no media interaction, the exact extent of his injury couldn’t be ascertained.

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Though it has already gone beyond the better-late-than-never phase, Ajinkya Rahane could be all set to the play his first Test in this series. Possessing the best average outside Asia, Rahane was kept out of the XI for the first two Tests as Kohli wanted to go with Rohit Sharma based on his form against a weak Sri Lanka team at home.

Sharma will still play in all probability, not because he has inspired confidence but only because he got a 47 in the last innings at Centurion when the game had already gone beyond India’s reach. Going into Wanderers, Rahane’s inclusion is becoming a necessity if India want to avoid a whitewash on what is going to be the most difficult pitch so far.

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The India vice-captain was seen speaking to Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri alone for some time before he returned to an extended session of batting and fielding practice at gully, tell-tale signs that he could make a comeback. Rahane’s patience throughout this turmoil has been noteworthy. His technique would be helpful to get past the difficult phases but Kohli has to think hard on how to accommodate him with Rohit without dropping someone from the top order.

Cheteshwar Pujara hasn’t made things easier for him by being run out twice at Centurion though there could be a possibility he could be retained if India go with a four-man pace attack. With just two days to go, Kohli will have to weigh all his options before taking a final call.

First Published: Jan 21, 2018 17:44 IST