Virat Kohli says Ajinkya Rahane ‘strong candidate’ for No. 4 instead of opening
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Virat Kohli says Ajinkya Rahane ‘strong candidate’ for No. 4 instead of opening

Virat Kohli has changed his previous stance, an obstinate one, of earmarking Ajinkya Rahane only as an opener in the 50-over format. His latest statement ahead of India’s first ODI against South Africa

cricket Updated: Jan 31, 2018 20:56 IST
Khurram Habib
Khurram Habib
Hindustan Times, Durban
India vs South Africa,South Africa vs India,Virat Kohli
Ajinkya Rahane played well for Virat Kohli-led Indian cricket team in the recently concluded Test series against South Africa.(AFP)

It seems Ajinkya Rahane’s good outing in the Johannesburg Test and media’s criticism of skipper Virat Kohli for omitting him in the first two Tests has done the Mumbai batsman a world of good.

Kohli has changed his previous stance, an obstinate one, of earmarking him only as an opener in the 50-over format.

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On the eve of the ODI series against South Africa, the India skipper said, “We have explored many options in the last few months. We don’t have too many series and too much time left before the World Cup, we want to explore all the options before the World Cup. I had said earlier that Ajinkya will be looked at as a third opener, but that situation can change because he has batted at No. 4 in a World Cup before. These conditions are such that you get to play fast bowling throughout the innings so he becomes a strong candidate for No. 4.”

The No. 4 position has been difficult to fill ever after Yuvraj Singh went out of frame. India have tried many options, including former skipper MS Dhoni there, but none have materialised.

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Rahane, who played an important knock in the second innings of the final Test on a treacherous Johannesburg wicket, had scored a game-changing 79 (60 balls) against the Proteas in the 2015 World Cup in Australia.

Kohli though said he wants to keep all options. “We don’t want to be one-dimensional. It depends whose technique is suited for what spot. Especially in that particular country.”

Kohli feels the middle order still needs to be sorted as India gear up for the 2019 World Cup, which is one-and-a-half years away. “Middle order is something that… although the lower middle order is more or less sorted. The combination is working well for us with Hardik and Kedar and MS rotating and batting together. No. 4 is something we have experimented with in the last couple of series. That is the only spot I see that needs to be solidified otherwise the team looks pretty balanced.”

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Otherwise, the skipper feels the core for the World Cup has been sorted.

“We feel that the core of players is more or less sorted. It is more or less pretty strong at the moment. It’s about who takes that one particular spot. Guys who are given the opportunity need to capitalise and really string in performances that convince the management and the team very soon that that guy is meant to play at that spot for the team.”

First Published: Jan 31, 2018 20:56 IST