India vs South Africa, 1st Test: To drop Ajinkya Rahane will be a difficult decision, says KL Rahul | Cricket News – Times of India

Opener KL Rahul, India’s vice-captain for the SA tour, feels it will be a tough decision for the team to drop struggling veteran batsman Ajinkya Rahane for the first Test in Centurion, which begins on Sunday.
India have the in-form Shreyas Iyer and Hanuma Vihari waiting to claim a middle-order berth, but will the tough conditions tilt the odds in the 79-Testsold Rahane’s favour?
“It’s a very, very difficult decision to make,” Rahul said on Friday. “Ajinkya has been a very important part of our Test team and has played very, very crucial knocks in his career.”

Rahane’s form, however, has largely gone off the boil. He averages just 24.39 from 16 Tests in the past two years. His one or two-odd significant knocks, like the match-winning 112 in Melbourne as captain or the equally crucial 61 at Lord’s, have been interspersed with long fallow periods.
Since Lord’s, Rahane’s scores read 18, 10, 14, 0, 35 and 4, the last two at home before an injury forced him to sit out. Since Melbourne, Rahane has averaged 19.57 from 12 Tests.
Rahul, however, disagreed.
“The last 15-18 months, if I can think back, the knock in Melbourne was crucial. That partnership with Pujara at Lord’s in the second innings… ended up in us winning. He is a key player… a very, very strong player.”

With Rahane losing the vice-captaincy, however, the case for Iyer’s inclusion has grown, especially since the impressive debut ton in a tricky situation against the Kiwis in Kanpur.
Vihari, meanwhile, has been with the India ‘A’ squad in SA and managed three scores above fifty in the lead-up to the first Test.
“Shreyas has taken his chances, he played a brilliant knock in Kanpur,” said Rahul. “(But) as I said, it’s a tough decision.”
Rahul, however, hinted that India would go in with five bowlers, meaning only one of Rahane, Iyer or Vihari would get in.
“More teams have started playing five bowlers,” Rahul said. “It’s helped us in every away Test. When you have that kind of quality, you may as well use it. The workload also becomes easier.”

‘Extra motivation to win in SA’
Rahul himself is under a bit of pressure to deliver as an opener in conditions where he failed to sparkle in 2018. He managed just 30 runs from 4 innings and subsequently saw himself missing 16 Tests between September 3, 2019, and August 3, 2021, the most by an Indian batsman during this period.
“The last time I was here, I didn’t really know what to expect, how to handle it. Now, having played two Tests and having watched a lot of videos, we are slightly better prepared. We haven’t won a series in South Africa so that gives us the extra motivation to go out there and try and learn from the mistakes of past tours.”

Rahul turned his story around in England this year, scoring 315 runs from four Tests, second only to Rohit Sharma’s 368, including a special 129 at Lord’s. He knows that a lot will depend on how he and Mayank Agarwal can go about blunting the new ball.
“I don’t think too much about if I have performed well in England…I must perform here. The pitches can be challenging because of the tennis-ball bounce. In Australia they are fast and bouncy, but here it can be a bit spongy in the first few days and then it starts to quicken up. Each day the pitch is different here.”

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