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Dean Jones surprised by Ajinkya Rahane’s omission, blames schedule for away tour woes

Former Australia cricket team batsman Dean Jones says with the packed schedule teams don’t get time to acclimatise, and the Indian cricket team paid the price for that against South Africa cricket team. He adds that India’s No 1 Test ranking will be validated only when they face Pakistan cricket team and the ICC Test championship will ensure an even field.

cricket Updated: Jan 18, 2018 11:49 IST
N. Ananthanarayanan
N. Ananthanarayanan
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
South Africa vs India,SA vs IND,Ajinkya Rahane
Ajinkya Rahane, the Indian cricket team (Test) vice captain, has the technical and temperamental solidity to do well facing sides such South Africa cricket team away from home but he was excluded from the playing XI for the first two Tests by skipper Virat Kohli. (Getty Images)

Indian cricket team’s Test series loss with the Centurion defeat on Wednesday has left skipper Virat Kohli on the receiving end over the performances as well as the playing eleven fielded. (SA vs IND, Centurion Test scorecard)

Former Australia batsman Dean Jones said teams struggling away from home wasn’t new, but said cramped schedule of modern tours was also to be blamed. England’s 0-4 Ashes series loss is still fresh.

Jones’ career highlight is his 210 in the sapping humidity of Chennai in only the second tied Test in history, in 1986. The Allan Border-led team with Jones in it continued its revival, winning the World Cup the next year.

The Melbourne-born Jones was in the Capital to promote the ‘Visit Victoria’ tourism and education campaign, as well as the 2018 Boxing Day Test at the MCG.

CRAMPED SCHEDULE

“Our batsmen like your batsmen struggle when the ball swings a bit,” he said in an interview, referring to Australia’s 2-3 away Ashes loss in 2015.

Jones said unlike in his playing days in the 1980s and 1990s, cramped scheduling was leaving teams with little scope to acclimatise or comeback. “Now, the Ashes series in seven weeks, done and dusted -- that is wrong.” India have been criticised for scrapping the only warm-up game they were scheduled to play before the Cape Town Test, which they lost in three days (Day 3 was washed out) on a lively pitch.

Jones was surprised India didn’t pick Ajinkya Rahane for the first two Tests despite his superb overseas record. Rahane struggled in the home series against Sri Lanka, but the team management has been criticised.

NO RAHANE

“I don’t understand that. Because of the two hundreds and the double by Rohit Sharma (208 in ODI vs Sri Lanka in Mohali), they indulged him a bit, I think.

“Maybe they were captivated by it. But we all know the guy (Rohit) is an outstanding cricketer. He just hasn’t been able to consistently get the knocks they think he can play. But you need a series like this to find out how good you are and how bad you are. Rahane hasn’t made those two hundreds or double hundreds, exceptional performances. So, they tried him out.” Rohit though failed in both Tests.

Although India are in danger of a series rout, they are expected to retain their world No 1 Test ranking. Jones said top ranking had meaning only if a team played all others.

“We need a Test world championship, no doubt about it. We need to have more Test series that are World Cup qualifiers. That allows these Test series to have some context. Even if it is a dead rubber, there are points to be made.”

The ICC will set the Test championship rolling in 2019 with the final set for 2021 at the Lord’s. But India can do without facing Pakistan as they will have to face only six teams.

KOHLI, SMITH DUEL

Though no other India batsman in the top 5 got a fifty, Virat Kohli made an outstanding 153 at Centurion.

Jones said the technique of Kohli and Australia skipper Steve Smith was superior. “Their common denominator, they read length better than any other batsman in the world. And their defensive skills are better than any other batsman. They get it (length) right 95 out of 100 times… They know when to go forward and back. And on top of that, their defensive skills are better than everyone else.”

“In Test cricket, 70 percent of your game is defence. You don’t have that right, find a job.”

Smith, the world No 1 Test batsman, is ahead after a great Ashes series. “He is different, plays back a bit further. He has different hands, hits the balls in different spots. He is a back foot player with split grip. All the best batsmen have split grips at the moment, if you notice – holding the bat with hands apart.

“But they still read length better.”

VOTE FOR TEST C’SHIP

After India, Australia will tour South Africa and experts feel that will decide which team is the best. Not for Jones, though.

“No, until you have the World Cup, no one is No 1. You haven’t played Pakistan, so how can you say you are No 1? India will probably beat Pakistan, but you are not No 1 because you have not played all the teams. So, the schedule is compromised.”

Will the current Indian batting line-up withstand the test playing tough overseas tours in 2018-19? “They will want to come to Australia because the pitches are flat. There won’t be any swing. They will wish to have played England there,” Jones said.

As he spoke, India were caving in at SuperSport Park. “At the moment, they are just looking for the next Test, and get through today. With due respect to the Indian fans and media, I think they will be more reactive than proactive.”

First Published: Jan 18, 2018 11:40 IST