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Rahane's form on test as India eye comeback at The Oval

Source: PTI   -  Edited By: Harish Kotian
September 01, 2021 14:24 IST
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Ajinkya Rahane

IMAGE: Ajinkya Rahane during India's nets session at The Kia Oval in London, on Tuesday. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane's poor form with the bat and senior off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin's probable inclusion will have the most significant impact on the Indian team's efforts to move on from its Leeds debacle when it takes on a confident England in the fourth Test at The Oval in London, starting on Thursday.

 

The high of an inspirational victory at Lord's was followed by back-to-back batting debacles at Headingley and the penultimate Test at Oval would certainly play a huge role in the outcome of the five-match series.

Captain Virat Kohli had said that a victory at Lord's didn't guarantee a win in the next Test and a defeat at Headingley doesn't mean that an encore would happen at the Oval with the series locked at 1-1.

Not the one to believe that outside noise (fans and experts) should be given much credence, the Indian captain, in his heart of hearts, knows that all is not well with his batting unit and the biggest problem is the performance of its three middle-order stalwarts -- the skipper himself, Cheteshwar Pujara and his deputy Rahane.

Pujara might have redeemed himself with a fluent knock of 91 but the same can't be said about Rahane, whose form is shaky despite a crucial 61 in the second innings of the second Test.

In all likelihood, Rahane would get another chance but over the past two years, his inconsistency has hurt this team badly.

What many people have found baffling is that even a hundred at Melbourne or a fifty at Lord's hasn't inspired confidence and he has never looked like getting back into some kind of form.

Ravichandran Ashwin

IMAGE: Senior spinner Ravichandran Ashwin was not picked for the first three Tests against England. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

A total of 95 runs in five innings at an average of 19 is not an indicator of Rahane's qualities but a spunky strokeplayer like Suryakumar Yadav or an orthodox batter like Hanuma Vihari might bring in a bit of freshness in the middle-order.

If Rahane is dropped at all, then Vihari has a better chance of coming in as he also bowls off-spin.

However, skipper Kohli has shown that he can be dogmatic even if suggestions to contrary come from some of India's biggest cricketing legends including Sunil Gavaskar, who feels that playing an extra batsman might help the visitors.

An exhibit of it is his decision of not compromising with the five-bowler theory despite batting failures save for openers Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul.

Ravindra Jadeja in this series, with two wickets from three games, has played primarily as a No 7 batsman whose willow-wielding skills are considered to be far better than Ashwin, who is perhaps the world's best spinner at the moment.

The Oval track has traditionally helped spinners and therefore Ashwin, who had a six-wicket haul in a county game for Surrey against Somerset might just bring in his 400-plus wicket experience to trouble the English batters, who have been wary of him in the past.

But Kohli, whose fascination for four pacers is well documented, might want to replace an off-colour Ishant Sharma with Shardul Thakur, who is more of an all-rounder. However, it remains to be seen if Ashwin comes in place of Jadeja, who hasn't been penetrative enough.

Virat Kohli

IMAGE: India captain Virat Kohli bats in the nets. Photograph: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Similarly, Kohli has indicated looking at the workload of Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, both of whom have bowled over 100 overs in the series so far.

If the middle-order is a cause of concern for the Indians, the other aspect that's bound to give them sleepless nights is the form of rival skipper Joe Root, who has already tallied over 500 runs in just three games with a hat-trick of hundreds.

If Ashwin gets a look-in, his battle against Root will be one the cricket fans would be eagerly looking forward to.

For England, Dawid Malan making a comeback to Test cricket, was in good touch. Add to it, Mark Wood's blistering pace and Chris Woakes's incisive swing bowling and it is enough to ensure a bit of workload management for James Anderson.

Jonny Bairstow will keep wickets as Jos Buttler has taken a break with his wife expecting their second child.

Teams:

India: Virat Kohli (captain), Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Mayank Agarwal, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Rishabh Pant (wicket-keeper), R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav, KL Rahul, Wriddhiman Saha, Abhimanyu Easwaran, Prithvi Shaw, Suryakumar Yadav, Shardul Thakur

England: Joe Root (captain), Moeen, Anderson, Bairstow, Billings, Rory Burns, Sam Curran, Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Malan, Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.

Match starts 3.30pm IST.

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Source: PTI  -  Edited By: Harish Kotian© Copyright 2022 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.

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