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Ajinkya Rahane strengthens his case to open in ODIs; but will Rohit Sharma’s return push him back to No 4?

Ajinkya Rahane became the only Indian opener to score a century against England in England © Getty Images
Ajinkya Rahane became the only Indian opener to score a century against England in England © Getty Images

Ajinkya Rahane’s maiden One-Day International (ODI) ton has strengthened his case for opening the innings. However, with Rohit Sharma slated to return later in the future, will India make the tough call of changing their batting order ahead of the ICC World Cup 2015? Nishad Pai Vaidya writes about the possibilities.

There was a lot of talk about Ajinkya Rahane’s failure to convert starts. In the second and the third ODIs, Rahane got himself in and essayed attractive 40s that promised a lot more. However, he managed to get himself out and put paid to all hopes of a big score. But, he made amends in the most stylish manner during the fourth ODI by smashing his maiden ton in this format. It was an innings of good measure — one that contained both dominance and solidity.

That is the central value of Rahane’s game. There is a lot of solidity in his technique, yet he manages to score at a very good rate. Even when he plays those big shots, there is a touch of class and timing. He doesn’t actually smash it, but plays it with all grace. A great sight when on song, Rahane brings in a lot of confidence with his style of batting. That very solidity and temperance is what adds value to a side that has some very flamboyant stroke-players. Rahane may not look as flamboyant, but would match his contemporaries for every stroke.

But, where does he go from here? Rohit Sharma has seen a turnaround in his career after being promoted to open the batting on a regular basis in 2013. His numbers since then are fantastic and he formed a solid partnership with Shikhar Dhawan. Rahane has always been a reserve opener of sorts, who only batted at No 4 as there were two men in form at the top. By nature, Rahane has been an opener in one-day cricket; in fact he made his debut at the top. So, has he furthered his cause to open the batting leading up to the ICC World Cup 2015?

Rahane was only given this opportunity when Rohit injured his hand in the second ODI. Rohit had played a good innings in the second ODI and shown some good solidity. He became an opener more by accident, interestingly at the expense of Rahane in early 2013. Had he not been injured, Rahane would have continued at No 4 with India persisting with the combination at the top. Thus, it gives India the extra opening option and perhaps Rohit may get back to the top once he returns. The toss-up is mainly between Rohit and Rahane, for Dhawan isn’t moving anywhere else.

Indian captain MS Dhoni did say that they the opening spot suits Rahane and is where he feels quite comfortable. It shows the confidence the captain has in Rahane at the top and come the West Indies series, India would have to make that tough call. It is imperative that India get the line-up right ahead of the World Cup. Back in 2003, Sachin Tendulkar was allowed to open the batting after spending almost a year at No 4. But in 2007, he was pushed to No 4, which didn’t quite work out. The results of the two tournaments reveal the effect the decisions had on the team’s ultimate fate. India would bear that in mind before making that call.

Catch all the coverage of India’s tour to England here

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)

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