The India vs New Zealand two-match Test series starts from Thursday with the first match scheduled to take place in Kanpur. India will be without some big names, including skipper Virat Kohli — at least for the opening Test. In Kohli’s absence, Ajinkya Rahane will lead Team India in the first Test but the right-hander has been woeful form in recent times and had a nightmare outing in the Test series in England earlier this year. Former India batter Gautam Gambhir feels Rahane should consider himself “fortunate” to still be in the Indian Test side.
Ahead of the first Test, Gambhir speaking on Star Sports show ‘Game Plan’, said that he will like to see Shubman Gill come in at the No.4 position with Mayank Agarwal opening the innings along with KL Rahul.
“I am going to open with Mayank Agarwal and KL Rahul because he had opened in England. And then probably Shubman Gill will bat at No.4. That is what I would want to see. Rahane is pretty fortunate that he is still part of this side because he is probably still leading. The kind of England series he has had. But he has another opportunity now and hopefully he can make that count,” Gambhir said.
While not as damning as Gambhir, former India pacer Irfan Pathan too felt that the selectors and the team management will need to keep an eye on Rahane’s performances against New Zealand, especially with a tour of South Africa coming up after that.
“You need to keep an eye on Ajinkya Rahane’s performances. He has been having a terrible time, especially in the last one year. So, you need to keep in mind that who will be the guy batting in the middle overs, not only against New Zealand, but also in South Africa. So, if you think Shubman Gill is your man, then make him bat at No.4 and continue with that,” said Irfan Pathan.
Rahane had a torrid time in England, scoring a paltry 109 runs from seven innings. He averaged just 15.57 in the series with a high score of 61. Rahane was outscored by the likes of Ravindra Jadeja and Shardul Thakur with even Bumrah averaging more than the middle-order batter.
Rahane will hope to hit the ground running in the first Test, and with Kohli returning to lead the team in the second Test, there could be some serious questions regarding his place in the playing XI, if he fails in the opening Test.