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Ajinkya Rahane stakes claim for regular opener’s slot in Indian cricket team

Ajinkya Rahane, who smashed his second consecutive fifty in the current series against Australia, has staked claim to the Indian cricket team’s regular opener’s slot but has also opened up a new conundrum for Virat Kohli.

india vs australia 2017 Updated: Sep 24, 2017 23:16 IST
Hindustan Times, Indore
Ajinkya Rahane,India vs Australia,India national cricket team
India's Ajinkya Rahane plays a shot during his 50-run knock. (REUTERS)

Ajinkya Rahane’s role in Indian team’s dominant streak has been understated. The likes of MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Virat Kohli, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal have made the headlines with their performances in the ongoing series. (IND v AUS full report)

Rahane, who has been opening the innings after Shikhar Dhawan was declared unavailable for the first three ODIs, had a rough start to the series as he failed in the Chennai ODI. (IND v AUS highlights)

However, in Kolkata and Indore, he chipped in with gritty fifties.The 29-year-old’s fifties in the last two ODIs have been a study in contrast.

READ | Ajinkya Rahane continues great form with fifty in 3rd ODI vs Australia

In Kolkata, with Rohit Sharma getting out cheaply, he aggressively tackled the Australian bowling and allowed Virat Kohli to settle. His 102-run stand with Kohli at Eden Gardens laid the foundation for a total that the bowlers could defend.

In Indore, with Rohit blazing away and hitting sixes at will, Rahane held his end up and maintained a steady scoring rate. The 139-run stand gave India the perfect platform from which they could chase down Australia’s 293/6.

Team composition issues

Ajinkya Rahane’s exploits in Kolkata and Indore have given Kohli a headache ahead of the Bangalore ODI, where Dhawan will make a comeback. With Rahane assured to open now that Shikhar Dhawan will not be part of the last two ODIs, a solid performance in the next two games could intensify the competition for the opening slot.

The right-hander’s consistency means that he cannot be easily dropped from the opening slot. So, the question is, where to slot Rahane?

READ | Classy Rohit Sharma guides India to series-clinching win vs Australia in Indore

Another factor that Kohli cannot afford to overlook is Rahane’s consistency at the top. Ever since the start of the West Indies series, Rahane has managed scores of 62, 103, 72, 60, 39, 5, 55 and 70.

A total of 466 runs at an average of 58 is a sign that Rahane has matured as an opener, unlike in the 2013/14 period when he failed to capitalise.

Experimentation haunts Rahane

When Kohli said that the team management is looking to experiment in Sri Lanka, Rahane would have faced nervous moments. The Mumbai batsman has batted at Nos.3, 4 and 5 on a regular basis. Earlier, the experimentation with his slot would result in a loss of form and ultimately, he would be out of the side.

First Published: Sep 24, 2017 22:53 IST