Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane Image Source : GETTY IMAGE
Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane Image Source : GETTY IMAGE

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Reetinder Singh Sodhi believes it would be a ‘big call’ if the Indian team leaves out senior batsman Ajinkya Rahane from their XI for the third and final Test against South Africa.

Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara, who have both struggled for form of late, scored attacking half-centuries in the second innings of the Wanderers Test against the Proteas. Hanuma Vihari, who played that Test as a replacement for Virat Kohli (ruled out for back spasms), also stood out with fighting knocks in both innings.

Reetinder Singh Sodhi. Photo Credit: Getty Images.
Reetinder Singh Sodhi. Photo Credit: Getty Images.

Reetinder Singh Sodhi: One Out Of Ajinkya Rahane Or Hanuma Vihari Will Play

In the 2nd Test, Cheteshwar Pujara scored 53 runs off 86 deliveries and stitched together a 111-run partnership for the third wicket with Ajinkya Rahane. It was also Cheteshwar Pujara’s fastest Test fifty away from home. Ajinkya Rahane played a fluent knock of 58 runs off 78 balls but India fans expect more from the duo. Ajinkya Rahane averaged a lowly 20.82 with the bat in 2021.  Cheteshwar Pujara hasn’t scored a hundred since January 2019.

Now, former Indian cricketer, Reetinder Singh Sodhi has opined that only one out of Hanuma Vihari or Ajinkya Rahane might feature in the Indian playing XI if Virat Kohli returns back for the 3rd Test. Reetinder Singh Sodhi feels that Hanuma Vihari warrants a place in the Indian playing XI for the third Test.

During a discussion, Reetinder Singh Sodhi was asked about the selection dilemma for Team India, to which he replied: “If you talk about the combination, one out of Ajinkya Rahane or Hanuma Vihari will play. It will be a big call if you don’t play Ajinkya Rahane because Hanuma Vihari has not done anything wrong; he played a very pivotal knock.”

Hanuma Vihari
Hanuma Vihari (AP Photo)

The former India all-rounder Reetinder Singh Sodhi  added that Ajinkya Rahane would be slightly fortunate to retain his place in the playing XI, explaining: “Rahane has also scored runs, where the form has been seen. So it will be a huge decision, and if Rahane plays, it could be a lifeline for him because somewhere or the other, he has been struggling. He will be able to cement his place once again if he wins the decider for the Indian team.”

Virat Kohli and Rahul Dravid opted to stick with Ajinkya Rahane ahead of Hanuma Vihari and Shreyas Iyer for the first Test against South Africa, despite the former Indian vice-captain’s indifferent recent returns. With the 33-year-old scoring a fifty in Johannesburg, it is unlikely he will be dropped now.

Former India cricketer Reetinder Singh Sodhi believes that leaving out Ajinkya Rahane would be a big call for the tourists. Reetinder Singh Sodhi further opined that if Ajinkya Rahane gets a chance, given the rough patch he is going through, it would be a ‘lifeline’ for the Mumbai batter.

Saba Karim: Biggest Question Posed Will Be Team Combination As To Whether Ajinkya Rahane Or Hanuma Vihari Will Be In Playing XI

Saba Karim was asked about Virat Kohli’s biggest challenge on his probable return as captain for the 3rd Test and he replied it’s team composition as Hanuma Vihari and Ajinkya Rahane are fighting for a middle-order berth.

He replied: “The biggest question that will be posed is the team composition. Virat will have to decide with Rahul Dravid what the XI should be. The big question is, because Virat Kohli is coming back into the XI, whether you will leave out Ajinkya Rahane or Hanuma Vihari.”

File photo of former wicketkeeper Saba Karim. – The Hindu
File photo of former wicketkeeper Saba Karim. – The Hindu

The former India selector added that a choice will also have to be made between Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav if Mohammed Siraj is unavailable.

Saba Karim observed: “Siraj is injured at the moment, so whom will you play instead of him. I feel if you look towards experience, you should definitely play Ishant Sharma. But things will be decided based on who is bowling better between Umesh and Ishant in the nets.”

Mohammed Siraj suffered a hamstring injury on Day 1 of the Johannesburg Test. Although he returned to the field and bowled a few overs, the team management is unlikely to take a risk with him for the all-important series decider. The third and final test will begin on January 11 at Cape Town as India will be eying for their maiden series win in South Africa. India’s next assignment in Tests will be a 2-match series against Sri Lanka at home in February-March.