Is It Time to Drop Ex-Vice Captain Ajinkya Rahane From the Indian Cricket Team's Playing XI?

© AP Photo / Rafiq MaqboolIndia's cricketers celebrate after winning on the day four of their second test cricket match with New Zealand in Mumbai, India, Monday, Dec. 6, 2021
India's cricketers celebrate after winning on the day four of their second test cricket match with New Zealand in Mumbai, India, Monday, Dec. 6, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 25.12.2021
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The chorus for dropping former vice captain Ajinkya Rahane from India's Test cricket team has grown louder in the last three months. Last month, many ex-cricketers, including former New Zealand skipper Daniel Vettori and Dinesh Karthik slammed the Mumbai-born batsman's lack of runs, putting Rahane's place in the side under the scanner.
With the Indian Test cricket team's series against South Africa beginning at the SuperSport Park in Centurion on Sunday, an intense debate is in progress on social media about Ajinkya Rahane's spot in skipper Virat Kohli's playing XI.
Rahane, who was the vice captain of the side until last month, has seen a prolonged lean patch with the bat.
It has been almost a year since Rahane played meaningful innings and it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that the 33-year-old batter's numbers have been extremely poor in 2021.
With only 411 runs in 12 Test matches at an average of 19.57, Rahane has had a subpar year, compared to his lofty standards in the past. For example, in 2019, he scored a super impressive 642 runs in just 8 games and that too at a stunning average of 71.33.
Rahane was earlier called "Mr. Consistent" for a reason. Alongside captain Kohli, he was regarded as one of the best Indian batsmen because of his ability to adapt to foreign conditions quickly.
Over the years, the biggest weakness of Indian batsmen has been their tentative footwork overseas, where the ball tends to move both in the air and off the seam. But Rahane was one batsman, who could negate that movement and score runs on difficult pitches with a considerable amount of ease.
Cases in point are his centuries at Lord's in England, in New Zealand's Wellington, and twice at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in Australia.
With these, Rahane had left a stamp of his class and mastery in countries where not many Indian cricketers have reached the three-figure mark during its nearly 90-year history.
Such has been Rahane's liking for foreign pitches that even his last hundred came against the Kangaroos in a Boxing Day Test match in 2020 as he scored an imperious 112 to lead India to a memorable triumph over the home team.
However, since then Rahane has only made two fifties in 22 innings.
While newly-appointed vice captain K.L.Rahul declared on Friday that Rahane is a key member of India's Test squad, there are no apprehensions about his situation in the team and he could still face the axe.
Former Indian cricketer Yograj Singh, who is also the father of two-time World Cup winner Yuvraj Singh, however, has put his weight behind Rahane.

"Rahane is a brilliant batsman and dropping him from the side is not justified at all. What I believe is he should be given a long rope, at least the entire South Africa series to get back among the runs", Yograj told Sputnik in an exclusive conversation on Friday.

Yograj, who was part of India's Test and One-Day International (ODI) cricket team during the 1980s, also pointed out that the current head coach, the legendary Rahul Dravid, could convince the team's management, including Kohli about Rahane's inclusion in the South Asian side's starting line up for the first match against the Proteas.
"Rahul Dravid knows Rahane's capability and I am sure, since he is the coach of the side, he will surely bring him in, because Rahane is a great talent", he concluded.
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