It seems almost certain that Ajinkya Rahane’s World Cup dream is all but over with India concluding its last one day international before the tournament.
His constant non-selection over the past year has been mystifying considering his quality and importance to the middle-order.
His ability to double up as an opener too would have proved vital to the team. But the selectors seem to be thinking beyond him which is strange.
His technique in any form of the game cannot be questioned. Besides that, he has a decent record in one-days – 2962 runs from 90 matches, averaging 35.3 with a strike rate of 78.6. He has three centuries and 24 fifties to his name.
Another plus point in Rahane’s favour is that his technique could be of great use under English conditions where the World Cup is being played.
However, Rahane hasn’t been setting the world alight over the last year or so in all forms of the game. But he could at least have been tried for a few games to find out if he would fit into the World Cup plans.
The player recently urged the selectors to give him chances more consistently so that he could prove himself again. Nothing has come of that.
It is too late now for India’s Test vice-captain. Only a cracking start in the Indian Premier League (IPL) for Rajasthan Royals can bring him back into World Cup contention.
That is only a long shot. From chief selector MSK Prasad’s mutterings recently, it seems that the World Cup squad is almost in place.
India are one of the favourites to win the World Cup. If everything falls into place, they will be unstoppable.
But the just concluded series against Australia has opened up a couple of chinks which need to be ironed out. The middle-order continues to be a vexing problem with Ambati Rayadu in poor form and Rishabh Pant still struggling to find his feet.
With Mahendra Singh Dhoni now confirmed as the first choice wicketkeeper, Pant will have to step up as a reliable batsman to get into the team.
Vijay Shankar has grabbed his chances but he is still raw and it will be a gamble whether he succeeds in England.
Dinesh Karthik has done reasonably well recently but his recent omission may mean that the selectors have different plans.
All this further strengthens the case for Rahane’s inclusion in the team. Former India captain Dilip Vengsarkar, in a recent interview, also said that Rahane’s utility as both an opener and middle-order player would ease the problem of finding a spare batsman for both slots.
The astute Vengsarkar also felt that India’s best spinner Ravichandran Ashwin would be a good choice for the World Cup because of his superb skills. The off-spinner hasn’t worn the blue outfit since June 2017 and doesn’t stand a remote chance to get the nod.
Ravi Shastri, who shoots his mouth sometimes, has said that Kuldeep Yadav will be first choice spinner in Tests too, just on the strength of a five-wicket haul in his last Test.
Sadly, India does not value players like Ashwin and he will eventually get de-motivated and quit. It is hoped that the India’s selectors at least give a thought to Rahane before choosing the team next month.
India needs reliability in the middle-order to really put up big totals and Rahane fits the bill.
#All views expressed in this column are those of the author and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to the same.