Kolkata Test: Eyes on Ajinkya Rahane and Mayank Agarwal ahead of squad selection

Kolkata Test: Eyes on Ajinkya Rahane and Mayank Agarwal ahead of squad selection

The selection meeting in Kolkata on Thursday for the upcoming limited-overs series against West Indies is an opportunity for the MSK Prasad-led panel to have a rethink. For some reason, Ajinkya Rahane was binned as a white-ball player after the South Africa tour in early 2018. Manic experiments followed in search of the ideal No. 4 for the World Cup. When India crashed out of the World Cup, nine-ODI-old Rishabh Pant had walked out to bat in that position. That Rahane wasn’t doing well by his standards even in the long-form during that period didn’t help his cause. But now the Test team vice-captain is back at his best, as his Test average – 73.87 – and two hundreds under pressure in seven matches this year confirm. The question, however, is: Can the 31-year-old convince the selectors that his Test form could be replicated in ODIs as well?

India host three T20 Internationals and as many ODIs against West Indies in December. If the panel sticks to its policy of workload management for key players — Virat Kohli was rested for the three T20Is against Bangladesh — then Rohit, too, deserves a break. Rohit has been playing almost non-stop this year — 25 ODIs, 11 T20Is and four Tests so far apart from the IPL. If he is rested, then Rahane, who till 2017 was the Indian team’s reserve opener in white-ball cricket, becomes a serious contender on form.

Mayank Agarwal, too, is in red-hot form in Test cricket, fresh from two double hundreds and a century in his last four matches. Given that Shikhar Dhawan is going through a mini slump, Agarwal should be a strong contender for the opening slot in the ODIs.

That he can open the innings as well as bat down the order at No.4 should, at least theoretically, bolster Rahane’s case.Then again, it needs to be seen if the selection panel considers the T20I and the ODI squads in isolation. If their thought process is completely 2020 World T20-oriented, with the ODI series fitting in as an extension, then its unlikely that Rahane will get a look-in.