Ajinkya Rahane being dropped in the first Test against South Africa is a hard pill to swallow for the die-hard Test fan, given his overseas record.
"My mind and heart tells me 2018 is going to be my year and I'm really confident about it,” said a convinced Rahane as he bid goodbye to 2017.
The graceful right-hander was confident that the new season would bring him immense success. His confidence must have taken a strong blow when he was chucked out from the playing XI in the 1st Test against South Africa.
Decision unprecedented but not unexpected
Following Rahane’s poor run of form in the home season, there were speculations that Rohit Sharma may topple his fellow Mumbaikar from the Indian Test side.
However, when the Test squad for South Africa was announced, the selectors assigned Rahane the vice-captaincy of the Indian team. It appeared as if all was good in the hood. The cricket pundits and fans perceived it as a signal that the captain and the team management believed that Rahane’s slump in form was only a passing affair.
A day prior to the match, though, there were reports that the vice-captain may be dropped in the 1st Test. It was a hard pill to swallow for Indian Test cricket fans.
Stellar overseas record
Rahane had been India’s shining light on foreign tours. Even on the previous South Africa tour, he scored 209 runs at a sublime average of 52.25. It was his first overseas tour in Tests.
Rahane has the highest overseas average among the current crop of Indian batsmen. His stats speak for his stellar performances in alien conditions.
Fragile batting line-up
There was a lot of talk prior to the match analysing the Indian batting lineup's chances against the star-studded South African bowling line-up. Keeping that in mind, dropping Rahane from the side does not make sense as it has further made the batting vulnerable.
It is not a secret that Shikhar Dhawan is not at his best against the moving ball. Same is the case with Virat Kohli, who has struggled against the nagging off stump line.
The likes of Ashwin, Saha and Bhuvneshwar can help the specialist batsmen by contributing 40s or 50s. Expecting them to bail India out of trouble every time in conditions not conducive for batting is asking a bit too much of them.
The onus of anchoring the middle order is now on Sharma. He is relatively new to the Test arena and there is no guarantee of him hitting the ground running.
If India keeps losing early wickets in difficult conditions like they did on the opening day of the series, the decision of dropping Rahane can turn out to be a disaster for the team
However, the exclusion may even work in Rahane's favour individually. It may trigger something in him to bounce back and cement his place in the side.
Few years back when former Indian coach, Greg Chappell, asked Ganguly to drop himself from the side, it hurt him so much that he slammed 150 runs and picked up five wickets in the same match.
This time around, we can just hope that this move affects Rahane positively. He must take the exclusion in his stride in such a way that it motivates him to come out firing on all cylinders, whenever he gets an opportunity.
As they say, form is temporary but class is permanent. There are few in International cricket who can personify this age-old adage and Rahane is certainly one of them.
© Cricket World 2018