IND vs SA: KL Rahul Calls Ajinkya Rahane Key Member of Test Squad, Drops Hints About Team India's Playing 11 For 1st Test vs South Africa
Centurion: Indian cricket team's newly-appointed vice-captain KL Rahul on Friday addressed the media, a couple of days ahead of the first Test match against South Africa at the SuperSport Park in Centurion. From explaining about team's strategy in the Boxing Day Test to answering about the "very difficult decision" of which batter to pick at No. 5. slot - Rahul showed great maturity in his first media interaction as Team India's new Test vice-captain. In the absence of injured Rohit Sharma, Rahul is set to don the hat of Virat Kohli's deputy in the upcoming three-match Test series against the Proteas.
The 29-year-old indicated that the visitors might opt for the "tried and tested" five-bowler strategy in the first Test against South Africa but agreed that the choice between Ajinkya Rahane and Shreyas Iyer for the number five slot is a tough one. Asked if playing four bowlers, which allows an extra batter in the line-up becomes a workload management problem for the team, Rahul replied in an affirmative.
"I think more teams have started playing [five bowlers], because, you know, every team wants to pick up 20 wickets, and that's the only way you can win a Test match," Rahul said during a virtual media interaction.
"Workload also becomes slightly easier to manage with five bowlers and when you have that kind of quality (in Indian ranks), I think, we might as well use it," the senior opener made it amply clear that a fourth pacer will play.
Shardul Thakur, because of his superior batting skills holds an advantage over senior pro-Ishant Sharma, it could mean that only one among Iyer, Rahane and Vihari will get a look in.
Rahane 'Key Member' of India Test Squad
With a five-bowler combination, it seems likely that Rahane, who averages 19.57 in 12 Tests this year, will be locked in a three-way tussle for the No. 5 slot along with Shreyas Iyer and Hanuma Vihari. Iyer recently made a century on Test debut against New Zealand in Kanpur, while Vihari warmed up for the series with three back-to-back half-centuries during India A's tour of South Africa.
"It is a very difficult decision to make obviously. Speaking about Ajinkya, he has been an important member of the Test team, played very, very crucial knocks in his career," Rahul was waxed eloquent about his senior teammate.
"In the last 15-18 months, if I can think back, his knock in Melbourne was really really crucial; it helped us win a Test match. That partnership with [Cheteshwar] Pujara at Lord's in the second innings where he got a fifty was really important, and that ended up in us winning the Test match. So he's been a key player for us in the middle order, and he's a very, very strong player," Rahul added.
"Shreyas obviously has taken his chances and got a brilliant hundred (along with a fifty) in Kanpur and he is very exciting. Hanuma has done the same for us, so it's a tough decision"
It was but only natural that Rahul, as a part of team management, kept cards close to his chest. "We will start having a chat today or tomorrow and you will get to know in a couple of days' time."
Nothing Changes After Becoming Vice-Captain
Rahul is the new deputy to Virat Kohli in absence of an injured Rohit Sharma and for him his primary duty is to give the team a good start and if required provide his skipper with technical inputs.
"I have always enjoyed the responsibility and as an opener, we have the responsibility of providing good starts. Now, maybe a bit more involvement with regards to making strategy with the captain. Maybe pass on some more information and take some pressure off Virat," concluded Rahul.
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