Mumbai: The day Rahul Dravid bid adieu to Test cricket, India launched a frantic search to find a replacement, but have failed to do so as yet. Three have already been tried for the slot — Saurashtra batsman Cheteshwar Pujara and Mumbaikars Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma.
Among the trio, Pujara initially looked like the one who could fill in the shoes of The Wall with a compact defence while Sharma was out of the race, thanks to his inconsistency despite being vastly talented.
But the Saurashtra batsman failed to carry on with his form under testing conditions on foreign soil. Statistics say, he scored a lone fifty in 14 innings played in England and Australia. The right-handed batsman averages more than 64 at home, but when it comes to batting on foreign soil, he cut a sorry figure, averaging a shade above 33. His career average is just above 47.
Whereas, the 28-year-old Rahane showed tremendous guts while batting under hostile conditions. Having played 17 of 22 Tests abroad, Rahane is well aware of conditions and also has the wherewithal to deal with it. His average swells over 47 on foreign shores whereas his career average is just below 45.
This small piece of statistics says it all. It will not be a surprise at all, if one gets to see Rahane coming in at No 3 at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, North Sound, Antigua on July 21, when India play their first of the four-Test series. That the India vice-captain might be given that role to play had some hint in head coach Anil Kumble’s net session at the National Cricket Academy on Friday.
According to information reaching here, Rahane was asked to bat at No 3 while compatriot Pujara came in at 6 under the watchful eyes of Kumble. If these are any indications, then the prolific Mumbai batsman appears to be the new Wall of Indian cricket. The sequence of events reminds this writer of a conversation with a former national selector when Rahane was just about to make the cut in the Indian Test team.
“This guy (Rahane) has that grit…He can stay at the crease, he can accelerate, if needed…he can play any role,” the selector said during an informal chat.
However, India had an intense practice session on Friday with the new head coach in command with the fielding drills looked a priority. The plans seemed well thought out. Even Virat Kohli was seen donning the big gloves as Kumble made sure wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha gets to bat at the nets.
So, the middle-order could be like this: Rahane, Kohli, Pujara, Sharma and Saha in order for Antigua…