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On jinxed tour. India lose right hand man Ajinkya Rahane

If Suresh Raina is chuckling away in a corner in India, he can be pardoned. Sometimes, the absence makes the heart grow fonder. For a man who has often been dissed by some fans, and eventually dropped by the selectors, he has been missed in the lower middle order. Now, India brace themselves for another big miss. Ajinkya Rahane, who split his webbing on his right hand while fielding in the fourth ODI, will definitely miss the final one-dayer, and it won’t be a surprise if he has to sit out for the three T20Is as well.

The news of his injury came at a phase during the Canberra chase when it seemed it wouldn’t matter in that game at least. Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli were cruising along, and it seemed Rahane could ease up and rest his hand. A message came from the Indian camp that ‘Rahane will bat if necessary’. Little did anyone know then how costly the injury was going to cost India. Forced to bat at No. 7, and having great difficulties in holding the bat, he didn’t last long, edging one to slips after making just two runs.

Out of T20Is?

The news coming in from the Indian camp is that Mumbai batsman will take minimum seven days to recover fully and the team management has not asked for any replacement as they are hopeful for Rahane’s early recovery.

In case he finds himself out of action, which is likely, he will be sorely missed by this team. Rahane had played a crucial role in Brisbane and Melbourne, making 89 and 50, and being involved in big partnerships with Virat Kohli in both those games. Once considered not essential in the ODI team, despite his game-changing abilities in IPL, Rahane had begun to find himself in the 50-over format. He is one of those batsmen who are gifted with the knack of timing but it was his gap-finding ability that was holding him back in the initial ODIs. At times, he would be seen going too hard into his shots, and unable to pierce the gap. But he changed all that quickly, started rotating the strike better and has made himself a valuable member of this line-up. Especially in the absence of Raina.

Even his opponents are impressed. David Warner couldn’t stop himself from lavishing praise. “I’ve seen him evolve through the IPL in trying to rotate the strike and clear the ropes,” he said. More praise came in from Kane Richardson, who took five wickets to be named man of the match. “The big part was Rahane not being fully fit. That really helped because he’s a quality batter.”

His captain Dhoni, who once had doubts about him succeeding on slow wickets in the ODIs, is now a vocal supporter of him. On the eve of team’s departure, Kohli had nailed the essence of Rahane’s batting. “I have watched him closely for the last three years and one thing I have noticed is that the ball leaves his bat quicker than most people. That’s the trick he has. He has that timing and power, which most people don’t realise.”

The middle and the lower order have obviously been a great concern. The youngsters haven’t really started to fire yet but then again, one has to remember that this ODI team was a long-term selection shot. The short-term focus was reflected in the T20 squad which was picked solely for the upcoming world cup. This ODI team was supposed to help the team identify a couple of young players and also, to weed out those who can’t cope at this level. Just like Australia has done. They threw a few young bowlers in the mix and they too have been hit around the park but they have managed to find one or two with big heart and skill. India haven’t been that lucky as yet but the approach of both teams has been similar.

Some of the selection choices have been a touch confusing though. Especially that of R Ashwin’s non-selection. Was it done so that other youngsters been given a chance? Or was it because they thought Ashwin wasn’t good enough, which is a harsh call. After all, he was India’s best bowler until a week or two back, and now suddenly, he isn’t good enough? They backed Shikhar Dhawan through his patchy form at the start of the series, (he didn’t have a great time in the ODIs against South Africa as well) but haven’t shown similar generosity with Ashwin.

Maybe, it’s not a surprise then that all this confusion has shown in the way Indians have performed in this series. Of late, the Indian team has struggled a bit to perform consistently on flat tracks as their bowlers have lacked imagination, and skills, to cope. Their batsmen have won them a few games but as a group, they have looked an unconvincing unit. They have one ODI to change, one last chance for this bunch of youngsters to prove themselves before a few old faces join the T20 squad.

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Date : 22-01-2016 03:48:12