Again to being backseat boy

Chennai, February 3

Ajinkya Rahane, who captained India with unmatched coolness in two Test victories in Australia, helping the team win the series 2-1, had raised an intriguing debate — former cricketers and analysts began to wonder if he might be better suited to the captain’s job than regular captain Virat Kohli.

 Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Hardik Pandya and bowling coach Bharat Arun during a practice session. Photos: BCCI

When Rahane himself was asked about his role now that Kohli is back to lead the team against England, he said: “My job is to take a back seat and help Virat. My job is really easy now. When Virat asks me about anything, I will tell him. Virat was the captain and he came back for family reasons. So I was the captain in Australia.”

Rahane, speaking at a video-conference today, two days before the first Test against England is to start here, also said the win in Australia was over and done with, and that it’s time to focus on the task at hand.

“Australia is past. We are in present. We respect the England side which has won a Test series in Sri Lanka. We want to play good brand of cricket and we are not taking anything for granted,” said Rahane.

Tough challenge

England blacked Sri Lanka 2-0 on their own grounds in their recent Test series, and their captain Joe Root is in great touch, having made 228, 1, 186 and 11 in four innings. England have triumphed on Sri Lankan wickets and would be well prepared for the Indian challenge.

So, the prudent and cautious man that he is, Rahane is not looking ahead to the World Test Championship final against New Zealand — India must beat England at least 2-1 to qualify for that match. “The WTC final is three-four (five) months from now. The focus should be on present series. New Zealand played really well and deserved to be in the final. For us, it will be about taking one game at a time,” Rahane said.

India fielded a very high number of players — 20 — in the four Tests against Australia, due to the injuries suffered by first-choice players, and the series against England would give the team management headaches about who to pick up in the playing XI.

Rahane, understandably, didn’t spell out anything about the team combination. However, by talking about Indian pitches helping spin bowling in general, he did give a hint about the Chennai wicket and the likelihood of multiple spinners in the Indian XI.

“We will decide on the playing combination after tomorrow’s training,” he said when asked if left-arm orthodox spinner Axar Patel will be handed a Test debut. “The Indian wickets always have something for spinners. We will back our strength. Let’s wait and see,” he said. — TNS

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