When India announced their playing XI for the first Test against South Africa, there was one glaring omission in the list. Ajinkya Rahane, who has scored runs at an average of 69.66 in his last South Africa tour back in 2013-14, was left out at the expense of Rohit Sharma and it didn’t take long for cricket experts and fans to question the move.
The murmur concerning Rahane’s exclusion amplified even more when Virat Kohli’s side lost the first Test by 72 runs in Cape Town. Going into the all-important second Test at SuperSport Park Centurion, it was expected that Rahane will return to the playing XI to bolster the batting lineup.
However, Kohli not only omitted him for the second time in a row, but also excluded Bhuvneshwar Kumar to include the lanky Ishant Sharma citing "extra bounce". It is pertinent to mention that Bhuvi has scalped 6-wicket haul besides scoring 25 and 13* in the two innings of Cape Town Test. Fans were once again left furious over the decision as India got humiliated in the second Test by 135-run.
Ahead of the third and final Test, former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar has now suggested that the Indian captain Virat Kohli should promote himself up the order and out of form Cheteshwar Pujara should make way for Rahane. In fact, Manjrekar clarified that he wanted these moves in the second Test as well.
"My playing XI for the second Test had only one change – Cheteshwar Pujara out and Ajinkya Rahane in. I want Virat Kohli to bat at No 3 and dictate the mood of the innings," Manjrekar said in an interview with ESPNCricinfo.
Defending Kohli’s bizarre selection call, Sanjay further added: "We are calling it Kohli's selection, but there are others involved in the decision making. But somehow you get the impression that he is the man in charge. So his selections are interesting, controversial, seemingly illogical, but for me, it is only increasing the TRPs of cricket."
Being the numero uno Test side in ICC rankings, India will now have to salvage some pride in the third and final Test, scheduled to be played at New Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg from January 24.