Ajinkya Rahane © AFP
Ajinkya Rahane © AFP

A great deal of surprise was not expected from the Indian cricket selectors as they met on Monday afternoon amid IPL fanfare to name the teams for upcoming tours of Zimbabwe and West Indies. However, after a meeting which went on for longer than expected in Mumbai, social media got flooded with selectors’ sheets containing misspelt names of those who were picked. Expectedly, the flight for Zimbabwe will have unknown names alongside the venerable MS Dhoni, but the group that will fly out to the Caribbean for a four-Test series will have a man slightly more burdened with responsibility. Ajinkya Rahane got promoted as the vice-captain of the Indian Test side, and this not only signals the change in the requirements that selectors seek in players, but there is a lot more to it. ALSO READ: India announce squad for West Indies tour 2016; Ajinkya Rahane named vice-captain

Rahane remained fixated at the bench close to two years after he was first drafted into the side in 2011-12, for the Australia tour. He eventually made his Test debut in 2012-13 against the same opponent in the final Test at Delhi — a forgettable outing — but remained close to the Test side more than ever. In fact, Rahane still remains not-the-first-choice-player for India in limited-overs cricket, but when it comes to the longest format, there are hardly a few as good as him.

Be it his arduous century at Lord’s — a match-winning knock in a historic win — or his 262-run stand at Melbourne with Virat Kohli against the Mitchells, Rahane has remained ahead of his peers. There is Rohit Sharma, who has frittered away chances he got in New Zealand, England and Australia. And then there is Ravichandran Ashwin, who remains a lethal force at home but can be tamed overseas.

And not to forget, the steely knocks of 51 not out and 96 at Durban — a series Indians do not talk about much. Rahane had shown tremendous grit and fortitude early on, and it was time he was rewarded for it. ALSO READ: Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane rested, MS Dhoni to lead; India announce squad for Zimbabwe tour

Rahane’s ascension as the vice-captain of Indian Test team carries many messages. First, the selectors are not making knee-jerk appointments as far as leadership in Test side is concerned, and there is pragmatism behind it. Kohli and Rahane are indeed India’s best batsmen in the format, they have age on their side, have leadership qualities, and a long future ahead.

Secondly, Indian selectors are ready to acknowledge and give rewards to anyone who puts in the hard hours. On this front, both Rohit and Cheteshwar Pujara have remained around the Indian cricket team but have not necessarily cemented their place in the side. Ashwin did emerge as a leadership candidate with his sharp cricketing brain and qualities, but selectors seem to be in the mood of grooming the next leader and there would not have been a better choice than Rahane.

The selectors must be lauded in this case. When a second-string Indian side had toured Zimbabwe in 2015, they had appointed Rahane as captain. At that point it seemed a random choice, but they had a plan in place, and were backing that plan.

A good match... Virat Kohli (left) and Ajinkya Rahane © Getty Images
A good match… Virat Kohli (left) and Ajinkya Rahane © Getty Images

Rahane’s appointment will take a lot off Kohli’s shoulders. What work they divide between them and with the coach — to be appointed soon — remains to be seen. But the pair oozes confidence, promises stability, and most importantly, a different approach to Test cricket — way different than what India have had under MS Dhoni and the men who were under and around him.

If Kohli is all about aggression and in-your-face cricket, there is the calmness and solidity of Rahane to provide support from behind. All-in-all, Rahane’s appointment looks like a terrific move by the Indian selectors.

(Devarchit Varma is senior writer with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)