Ajinkya Rahane
Ajinkya Rahane

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Sanjay Manjrekar on Sunday pointed out a key problem behind the Indian team management’s continuous backing for Ajinkya Rahane despite the veteran cricketer being out of form over the last few years. Sanjay Manjrekar feels that the longer the team management supports Ajinkya Rahane in getting back to scoring ways, the fewer opportunities it offers to back-up middle-order options in Hanuma Vihari and Shreyas Iyer.

In his last 19 Tests, which dates back to November 2019, Ajinkya Rahane has averaged only 27.75, scoring 888 runs in 33 innings with just one century, that magnificent 112 in the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne against Australia in December 2020. The streak also includes four half-centuries.

Sanjay Manjrekar | Sportzpics
Sanjay Manjrekar | Sportzpics

Sanjay Manjrekar: Team Management Backing Ajinkya Rahane As His Place Needs To Be Discussed

Ajinkya Rahane’s place in the playing XI for the first Test against South Africa remained uncertain amid an impressive debut by Shreyas Iyer in the home Test against New Zealand last November where he scored 105 and 65 to help India win after a top-order failure, and a string of three gritty half-century scores from Hanuma Vihari for India A in South Africa, around the same time, that helped the visitors draw the series.

However, the team management backed the veteran batsman who scored 48 off 130 in the first innings of the Centurion Test but managed only 20 of 33 in the second innings. Sanjay Manjrekar, ahead of the second Test in Johannesburg, opined that India should consider Hanuma Vihari and Shreyas Iyer.

Shreyas Iyer at the Green Park Stadium Photo: BCCI
Shreyas Iyer at the Green Park Stadium Photo: BCCI

“The team management is backing Rahane. India has won the first Test, and Rahane scored 48 runs in the first innings as well. So he might get another shot. But they should also think about Vihari and Shreyas Iyer. The more chances Rahane gets, the fewer chances the other guys will have. So this needs to be discussed,” he said.

Senior India cricketers Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara failed to fire yet again in the ongoing second Test against South Africa on Day 1 in Johannesburg. South Africa’s comeback man Duane Olivier pegged India back before lunch, removing Cheteshwar Pujara (3) and Ajinkya Rahane (0) in successive deliveries.

Sanjay Manjrekar: There’ll Be Pressure On Middle Order Batsman Ajinkya Rahane To Keep His Place In The Side

Sanjay Manjrekar further said that while he acknowledges the lean patch that captain Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara have incurred, he feels that Ajinkya Rahane’s poor run of form has been for some time now and that he will be under pressure when he walks out to bat at the Wanderers.

Ajinkya Rahane. (Photo Source: Getty Images)
Ajinkya Rahane. (Photo Source: Getty Images)

“Pujara and Kohli’s form is understandable and they will get opportunities. But Rahane’s poor form has been going on for some time now. So there’ll be pressure on Rahane to keep his place in the side,” he added.

India, with a 1-0 lead in the three-Test series, will be aiming to script a historic Test series win in Johannesburg. They had defeated the hosts by 113 runs to register their maiden win at the SuperSport park last week.

Both players have been woefully out of form with the bat in Tests over the last two years, with Cheteshwar Pujara averaging 20.37 and 30.42, while Ajinkya Rahane has managed 38.85 and 19.57 in 2020 and 2021 respectively. Ajinkya Rahane has scored just 1 hundred since October 2019 and his career average fell below 40 after the repeated failures, while Cheteshwar Pujara hasn’t hit a century since January 2019.

In the 2nd Test, India is struggling at 90/3 with KL Rahul (37*) and Hanuma Vihari (20*) unbeaten at the crease. India’s skipper Virat Kohli was however ruled out of the 2nd Test for back spasms and Hanuma Vihari replaced him. KL Rahul, stand-in vice-captain is leading India for the 1st time.