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Fitness over form: Fit-again Rahane gets priority over Nair

Source: PTI
February 08, 2017 14:51 IST
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'I feel one game doesn't overshadow two years of hard work from another player. You need to understand what Jinks (Ajinkya Rahane) has done for the team over the past two years'

'In future, I don't know how will things shape up but right now our four spinners are pretty much set and Mishy (Amit Mishra) has been doing really well but unfortunately he had his little injury, so Kuldeep comes in. But he will stay in our scheme of things with 2/3 other spinners whom we have targeted'

India’s Ajinkya Rahane (left) and Virat Kohli

IMAGE: India captain Virat Kohli has put an to all speculation and has said it in as many words that Ajinkya Rahane finds his way back into the team after an injury lay-off. Photograph: PTI

Indian captain Virat Kohli made it clear that Karun Nair's one triple hundred cannot "overshadow" the two years of consistent performance by his deputy Ajinkya Rahane who now "walks back" into the playing XI as a fully fit player.

Rahane didn't have a great series against England and was out with a fractured hand but is now going to be picked ahead of Nair for the one-off Test starting on Thursday.

"See, I feel one game doesn't overshadow two years of hard work from another player. You need to understand what Jinks (Ajinkya Rahane) has done for the team over the past two years. He averages almost 50 in the format and he is probably most solid batsman in our team in the Test format," said Kohli as he ended speculation on who will bat at No.5.

Young Nair is expected to go down as one of the rarest players after Englishman Andy Sandham, who scored 325 against West Indies at Kingston in 1925, to be dropped from the very next game. In Sandham's case, he was 40 at that time and never subsequently played a Test match.

India players warm-up during a training session in Hyderabad

IMAGE: India players warm-up during a training session in Hyderabad. Photograph: PTI

But Kohli made it clear that the triple century has helped Karun seal a spot in the squad which is a no mean feat.

"Karun was stepping into his (Rahane's) shoes and what he did was remarkable, sealing his spot as far as the squad is concerned. That was something that Karun did. As I said you can't overlook Ajinkya's two years of hard work on basis of one Test match. He (Rahane) deserves to walk back into the team whenever he got fit. That's my take on it," he said.

One of the rare Indian captains, who does not believe in keeping things vague, Kohli also made it clear that chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav may have to wait a bit longer as they have a core set of four spinners -- Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Jayant Yadav, and Amit Mishra -- in the Test format now.

"In future, I don't know how will things shape up but right now our four spinners are pretty much set and Mishy (Amit Mishra) has been doing really well but unfortunately he had his little injury, so Kuldeep comes in. But he will stay in our scheme of things with 2/3 other spinners whom we have targeted," said Kohli as he felt that Yadav would bring something "different" to the table.

India captain Virat Kohli speaks during a press conference

IMAGE: IMAGE: India captain Virat Kohli speaks during a press conference. Photograph: BCCI

For him, it is the job of a leader to communicate the team's philosophy and thinking categorically to the players so that they are aware of where they stand.

"I think communication is a big thing on that front and that's something we really do well in this team. The management and myself convey to the players about what we want and how we look at each player in the team," he stated.

"You need to back players for a long time for them to become match winners and eventually have long careers for Team India and produce consistent performances. I think bowlers can be switched according to conditions. In some places, we might want to play three spinners or in some conditions three seamers or may be one seamer, who is more effective on seamer-friendly tracks. I think those things are subjected to change and adjustment," said Kohli.

However, specialist batsmen's position in the playing XI is non-negotiable and it's not pitch dependent, feels Kohli.

"From a batting line-up point of view, you need big runs in Test cricket. To chip (chop) and change regularly doesn't let the batsmen gain confidence as such... Very important to back guys who got injured and are on a comeback trail as they have been regular feature in playing XI. They need to be given a chance as soon as they comeback."

Jayant Yadav impressed in the 2nd Test against England in Vizag, played in November last year, picking 4 wickets in that Test 

IMAGE: Jayant Yadav impressed in the 2nd Test against England in Vizag, played in November last year, picking 4 wickets in that match. Photograph: BCCI

The only consideration while dropping a player should be his form other than fitness.

"If form or something happens then you are subject to changing that player. Otherwise, very important to back top players who are in the Playing XI for a long time. At the same time, you need to keep those youngsters in the squad to groom them, nurture them and make them understand the situation."

The skipper expressed his happiness at the team’s bench strength.

"An injury should not deplete a team and that's what bench strength contributes to. We are lucky to have guys up and ready for Test cricket. Jayant (Yadav) walked in beautifully. In T20s and ODIs, you saw Chahal and Kedar stepping up. We do have a pool of players who are coming up nicely. Credit to selectors to identify the players but to players as well as they practice their skills regularly, work on fitness levels, have consistent performances at domestic levels, that's how you come into that pool.

"I think it's a back and forth thing that you need to identify players but they have to put in the effort which they have. Luckily we have good bench strength going forward. God Forbid if we have any injury going forward, as you said 2-3 guys, a great thing for the team," the skipper stated.

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