It is an old saying that one person’s pain could be another person’s gain. Murali Vijay found it out when he was recalled into the Indian team to replace a struggling Gautam Gambhir. Shikhar Dhawan was also experienced a similar feeling as he replaced the other permanent Indian opener, the horrendously out of form Virender Sehwag, for the third Test at Mohali. The best thing that happened to Indian cricket in this scenario is the fact that the duo grabbed the opportunity with both hands. But significantly, this occurred because they were given a chance in the first place.
As of now the case is not the same with Ajinkya Rahane. For some reason, he has been part of the Test squad for over a year, but is yet to make his five-day debut. It is not as if there haven’t been opportunities. He was part of the squad in Australia, but was benched even as India kept losing Test after Test without putting up any semblance of fight. Although most of the batsmen in the team were way senior to Rahane, the harsh truth was that they weren’t performing, and thus there wouldn’t actually have been any harm in giving Rahane a go.
The next opportunity arose when New Zealand toured India last year. VVS Laxman had announced his retirement prior to the series and, under the scenario, it would have been ideal to give Rahane his Test cap. However, yet again India decided to go with someone else, and Rahane continued to carry the drinks. Of course, one cannot guarantee that Rahane would succeed if he is given a chance at the Test level. Then again, the only way to find out is by giving him an opportunity to prove his worth. Look at the case of Shikhar Dhawan. There were question marks over his technique even as he was readying for his debut. Rest is history.
Per se there is no reason to keep Rahane out of the Delhi Test. All this while, the Indian selectors were adamant that the Mumbai batsman is in the team as a middle-order bat, and hence he wasn’t finding a place in the eleven. At the same time, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Rahane is actually someone who successfully opened the innings for Mumbai in domestic cricket at the start of his career. Thus, the Indian think tank actually has two options. They can either get Rahane to open the innings and let the rest of the batting order remain unaffected, or push Cheteshwar Pujara up the order yet again, and draft Rahane into the playing eleven as a middle-order batsman.
For all you known, Suresh Raina might well be preferred over Rahane; it is an open secret that the Indian skipper is extremely fond of the southpaw. Raina may even do well if given a chance considering his decent record in Tests on the sub-continent. Even if that transpires, it would be highly unfair on Rahane. If Raina is selected ahead of Rahane, the team would be sending the latter the wrong message-- that they do not consider him good enough yet for Tests. And if that is the case, he shouldn’t even be in the initial 15-member squad that is picked at the start of a series.
--By A Cricket Analyst