India vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane expectedly didn’t divulge the playing combination but did drop a hint that Shardul Thakur’s impressive lower-order batting could be used during the five-Test series against England, starting August 4 in Nottingham. Rahane also spoke about the importance of the mental health of cricketers and all sportsperson. The topic is once again in the limelight after England’s star all-rounder Ben Stokes shocked the cricketing fraternity last week by announcing that he would be taking an indefinite break from cricket to concentrate on his mental health.

Rahane opined that the current bio-bubble life could be very taxing on a cricketer’s mental health. He added that the effect might vary from person to person, but he respects the decision taken by Stokes. Meanwhile, the 33-year-old also named a bowler who can fill-up for Hardik Pandya’s absence in the upcoming five-match Test series. Rahane named fellow Mumbaikar Thakur, who recently scored a half-century and took 7 wickets against Australia in his second Test in Brisbane.

Asked, who among bowlers is the best bet with the willow and may be fill-up for Hardik’s absence, Rahane said: “Everyone is different. Hardik what he did in 2018 was different for us. Shardul can bat. You have seen Shardul bat in Australia and he did well in domestic cricket as well.”

Thakur has seven first-class half-centuries to his name but at a modest average of 16.58. “(Jasprit) Bumrah, (Mohd) Shami, (Mohd) Siraj, Umesh (Yadav) and Ishant (Sharma) are putting in the effort in the nets. Whatever 20-30 runs we score in end, matters a lot.

“It’s good that they are wanting to bat for at least 10-12 minutes in the nets. See result comes later and what is important is the process and working hard and contribute as a member of the team. We are hoping for some contributions from our tail-enders.”

Team India Respects Ben Stokes’ Decision

The 33-year-old Rahane acknowledged that bubble fatigue is a reality and his team completely respects opposition star Ben Stokes’ decision to take a break from the game and work on his “mental well-being.”

“Bubble (life) is really challenging. You have got to understand a player’s mindset as well. When you play at highest level, you have to always give your hundred percent and your mental health matters a lot.

“We (Indian team) respect his decision and I am sure his England teammates also respect his decision. It’s all about understanding players’ mindset as to what he is going through. It is tough and challenging to be in bubble continuously and perform,” Rahane stated.

Batsman Should Back Own Methods

Without taking Cheteshwar Pujara’s name, Rahane was posed a question on “intent”, a word that has cropped up time and again because of the Saurashtra batsman’s defensive batting. However, Rahane made it clear that approach is “to each his own” as long as communication from team management is clear.

“Obviously, we sat together and discussed about our batting plans but in England, it is challenging conditions for a batsman. Everyone has different plans and everyone needs to back his own methods,” Rahane, whose own form at times has been questioned, said.

“Communication is key for batting unit but individually I feel everyone should back their own methods because conditions change quickly over here in 15-20 minutes sometimes. It’s about getting used to conditions quickly. As a batting unit, we are ready.”

He also dismissed suggestions about whether Pujara could be promoted to opening the batting instead of his usual No 3 position.

“Pujara is our No 3 batsman. Who will open the innings, we are still finalising our combination. Pujara has been really solid for us at No. 3 and as for opening pair, the captain, coach and management will decide.”