India vs New Zealand 2nd Test: Will Ajinkya Rahane make way for Virat Kohli?

Ajinkya Rahane broke into Indiaโ€™s Test side in 2013 and has featured in 79 outings. But he is yet to play on his home turf at the Wankhede Stadium.

He came closest to featuring in a Test at home in 2016 โ€“ when India played England โ€“ but he sustained an avulsion fracture on his right index finger, ruling him out of the series. It has been a long wait for Jinks and the city, but Test cricket finally returns to Mumbai.

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But as India takes on New Zealand in the second Test at the Wankhede Stadium from Friday, will Jinks break the jinx? Thatโ€™s a tricky question, with Rahaneโ€™s recent form. Averaging just 19.57 in the last 21 innings, Rahane has been out of sorts for a while, and his last hundred came in the Boxing Day Test against Australia at the end of 2020.โ€œI think with both Ajinkya and (Cheteshwar) Pujara, we know that they have a lot of experience. They played enough cricket, and we also know as a team that they are one inning away from coming back into form. Everyone is behind them and backing them,โ€ Indiaโ€™s bowling coach Paras Mhambrey said on Wednesday. โ€œWe know that the value they bring to the team, the experience that they have will come good.โ€ย 

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Mhambreyโ€™s statement comes a few days after Dravid, too, had spoken on similar lines. Soon after the first Test in Kanpur โ€“ where Rahane, who led the team in the absence of Virat Kohli, scored 35 and 4 โ€“ Dravid said he was โ€œnot worriedโ€ about Rahaneโ€™s form. โ€œYou would like more runs from Ajinkya. I am sure he would like a few more runs. He is a quality player. He has done well for India in the past. He is one of those guys who has that quality. He has the experience. Hopefully, itโ€™s just a matter of an innings, a matter of a game where he can turn it around.โ€ Dravid said.

Who makes way for Kohli?

With Virat Kohli returning for the second Test, the question is โ€“ who will make way for Kohli? Will it be right to leave out Shreyas Iyer โ€“ who had a memorable debut in Kanpur โ€“ or will the team management look at giving a break to either Rahane, Pujara or will it be Mayank Agarwal?

Former India international and erstwhile selection committee chairman, Gundappa Viswanath, believes that it wonโ€™t be wise to drop Iyer.

โ€œIt is tricky, but you cannot leave out Shreyas. It is not just that he got a hundred, it is about how he got the hundred. He also played very well in the second innings, and on both the times, India needed those runs,โ€ Viswanath told Sportstar.

โ€œThe way he plays his cricket shows his maturity. He has played first-class cricket for a while and has more than 4,000 runs, so he applied that in Test cricket. He has played a lot of ODIs and T20s, but at the same time, he came into the Test scene and straightaway showed his class and temperament,โ€ Viswanath stated.

Viswanath understands the predicament of the team management and the selectors. โ€œYou have to drop somebody, but I donโ€™t know who that person will be. Just imagine when Rohit (Sharma) comes in, (KL) Rahul comes in, then what happens? It is a healthy competition and a headache for the selectors. I also donโ€™t understand people taking rests for Test matches,โ€ he said. โ€œRahane is not among runs. He had captained when Virat was not there. Itโ€™s all up to the management, how they look at this. But I think you can give him a break now because Shreyas is around.โ€

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