To err is human and India skipper Virat Kohli is just as human as any of us. But to justify an error in judgement isn’t exactly what you expect from the man who wears his heart on his sleeves. Yet, that is exactly what he did when the media asked him if the decision to play Rohit Sharma over Ajinkya Rahane backfired as India failed to chase down 208 against South Africa in the first Test at the Newlands Stadium in Cape Town.
Kohli said that Rohit was picked on the back of good form at home. But this is where Rahane’s personal coach Pravin Amre is not impressed. Having played in the Rainbow Nation and scored a century on Test debut, Amre says scoring consistently at home and to do that on foreign soil are two completely different things and Rahane deserved to be backed by skipper Kohli and chief coach Ravi Shastri.
“I think this is the time when Rahane needed Kohli and Shastri’s backing because he had just one bad series against Sri Lanka and that too on Indian soil. When he was dropped from the ODI team after winning the Man of the Series award in the West Indies, there was no problem because he was filling in for the first team players. He was expected to make way once they returned to the team. But to drop the vice-captain of the Test team in the first Test of what is deemed as the start of the real test for Team India over the next 18 months was anything but shocking,” he said.
Yes, Kohli was right when he spoke about current form as in the last Test series against Sri Lanka at home, Rahane managed 17 runs in 5 innings at 3.40 with a highest score of 10. But, this very batsman averages 69.66 against South Africa in the Rainbow Nation with 209 runs in 4 innings with 2 fifties. And Amre feels that this should have been kept in mind because playing the red ball and the white ball are as different as chalk and cheese.
“You cannot replace a Test batsman because he is low on form by a limited-overs batsman because he has scored tons of runs on low and slow Indian wickets. If that was the case, there wouldn’t be a term called specialists. I am one of Rahane’s biggest critics when he doesn’t do well. I am the mirror who needs to give him the real picture. But then, in this case, I will stand by him and say that he had trained really hard for this series.
“Hopefully, he will get to show his talent at some point in the series. I have played in South Africa myself and I can tell you that it is a different ball game when there is pace, swing and movement at the same time. I felt it was the perfect condition for Rahane to hold fort,” he ruefully said.
Apart from an impressive performance in South Africa, Rahane has scored 399 runs in 8 innings at 57.00 in Australia with 1 hundred and 2 fifties. He scored 299 runs in 10 innings against England in the home of cricket’s birth at 33.22 with 1 hundred and two fifties. This was in the same series when Kohli couldn’t manage to bother the scorers much. And in New Zealand, Rahane has scored 162 runs in 3 innings at 54.00 with a hundred.
And Amre feels that if just one bad series is enough to hand Rahane the axe, then these numbers on foreign shores over the years are enough to justify his position as one of India’s best when the ball starts to move around.
“This man has been scoring over the years on foreign soil and when one poor series sees him getting dropped, then it comes as a surprise because even against Australia in tough conditions, he not only did well, but also led the team well in Kohli’s absence,” he signed off.