South Africa series a chance for Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane to seal Test and ODI berths respectively
- Rohit has struggled to cement his place in India's Test squad.
- Rahane was left out of India's World Cup squad and later was not even considered as a replacement when the team struggled with a series of injuries in England.
- The series against South Africa could provide the two with just the perfect opportunity to excel.
MUMBAI: Two of Mumbai's finest batsmen are battling to have an impact in different formats of the game and trying to prove their relevance. While India's Test vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane is desperately seeking to stage a comeback in the shorter formats, Rohit Sharma, despite being a formidable name in the T20Is and ODIs -- he is also Virat Kohli's deputy in white-ball cricket -- has struggled to cement his place in India's Test squad. The first of his 27 Tests came against West Indies way back in 2013.
Rahane, meanwhile, was left out of India's World Cup squad and later was not even considered as a replacement when the team struggled with a series of injuries in England. Instead, Bengaluru lad Mayank Agarwal and Rishabh Pant were flown to England. He was also under pressure to retain his Test spot till he scored a hundred against West Indies at Providence in the first Test last month.
During an interaction with the media, organised by employers Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) in Mumbai on Thursday, Rahane said that it pained him to see a 'special talent' like Rohit not being able to make the cut in the playing XI of the Test squad.
"Honestly, I don't know yet whether Rohit will open the innings. But if he does, I will be happy for him. I said it in West Indies too, it is hard to see a special talent like Rohit sitting out," Rahane said.
The selectors have already pencilled Rohit in for the role of opener against South Africa. He has three centuries in 47 innings to his credit batting in the middle-order and has a decent average of 39.62, but outside the subcontinent, he has not been able to make the kind of impact he has had in the shorter versions. There is a perception that he plays too many strokes too early in Tests. Rahane, though, felt that Rohit was a hard-working guy and if given an opportunity, he will do well.
"We all know the quality he has. He is simply special," he said and added: "In shorter formats (ODIs), you can just go out there and back yourself. But Test cricket is all about the mindset. There are times when you will have two bowlers bowling good spells. As batsmen, we need to respect that... see those spells off and then play your game," he said.
Rahane last featured in an ODI 18 months ago against South Africa at Centurion. And he reiterated his desire to make a comeback in 50-over cricket. "I want to come back to ODIs. Right now, though, the focus is completely on this series (against South Africa)."
While India will be favourites against an inexperienced South African side, Rahane feels the likes of Kagiso Rabada and Keshav Maharaj need to be respected.
"Rabada is a quality bowler, a wicket-taker. It doesn't matter how the wicket is. We have to respect him and the other bowlers. They have got a relatively young team, but their bowling attack - fast bowlers and spinners are experienced. Keshav (Maharaj) has played county cricket and has done well in red ball cricket. So yeah, we need to respect them," he said.