Ajinkya Rahane should ideally take the mantle in the crucial No. 3 position © Getty Images
Ajinkya Rahane should ideally take the mantle in the crucial No. 3 position © Getty Images

During the first innings of the second Test against Sri Lanka, India yet again toyed with the crucial No. 3 spot by swapping Rohit Sharma for Ajinkya Rahane at the fall of the first wicket. The result was that Rahane lost his wicket cheaply in the unfamiliar position. This constant fidgeting with the line-up is detrimental to the Indian side in the long run and the management needs to find a permanent fix to the problem and stick by their decision, feels Rishad D’Souza.

Experimentation is always welcome in Test cricket, but there are certain things that leave very little room for constant fidgeting. A Test batting line-up is one such area that must be left untouched as far as possible; more so the No. 3 position. It is tough to single out any batting position as the most important as all have spots have their own roles, but the man coming in at the fall of the first wicket requires a batsman to be ready to face a brand new ball or a slightly older one with equal ease. ALSO READ: Indian Bowlers’ Day Out against Sri Lanka in 2nd Test

Only the toughest, most determined minds succeed in the position. Under difficult conditions, an opener might be spared the occasional cheap dismissal, but then the pressure falls on the shoulders of the man coming in after him. Expectations are usually higher even though the ball they face is also shiny and bowlers are just as fresh.

A player in this position requires tremendous mental strength, and to have that they must also enjoy the selectors’ confidence and must be given a long rope at that very position. To frequently shuffle and swap players in and out of the No. 3 spot will prove damaging to a team more often than not. ALSO READ: Angelo Mathews: Sri Lanka’s lone ranger

Therefore, the challenge for the Indian team selection panel is to first close in on a candidate to occupy the spot. The next task is to back that player even when he has not done particularly well on occasion. At this stage the toss-up is between Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara. Rahane did not have a very encouraging knock at No. 3 in the first innings of the second Test against Sri Lanka, but one cannot let one innings define the players’ ability.

Rahane looked very comfortable in the middle and lower-middle order spot in his previous matches and some have argued that he should shift back into that position, but Test cricket is often about moving out of one’s comfort zone. A counter-argument can be that the same rule should apply to Rohit Sharma. However, Rohit is limited by his inability to perform against the swinging ball on a consistent basis.

Rohit is a lovely stroke-player and is a joy to watch when he gets going, but he tends to get lazy with his footwork and that is the recipe for disaster against the new ball. On the other hand, Rahane seems like a prospect that can adapt to the No. 3 position and make a name for himself there in the years to come and find success like his guru Rahul Dravid.

If Rahane continues to flounder, Cheteshwar Pujara can be given a second opportunity. Though ideally, if a player who has been made to bat at No. 3 faces the occasional failure, the decision to replace him should be delayed as far as possible. It is in India’s best interest to quickly find a suitable No. 3 and stick with him; they cannot afford to fidget any longer.

(Rishad D’Souza, a reporter with CricketCountry, gave up hopes of playing Test cricket after a poor gully-cricket career. He now reports on the sport. You can follow @RDcric on Twitter)