Updated: October 17, 2015 11:31:19 am
Ajinkya Rahane will be India’s No.3, MS Dhoni has categorically stated. It has triggered debates over its long-term validity. Some feel that Kohli, who made his career at that spot, shouldn’t be moved down. Others feel that Rahane’s batting style suits a position in the top three. The man who matters for now, Dhoni, has made his position clear.
Another way of looking at this issue is through the eyes of Kohli. If Dhoni retires before the next 50-over World Cup, and if its Kohli who is going to lead it, then what would be his preferred line-up? Should one take the longer term view through that angle? Or should one look at it as viewed by Dhoni currently. Even if he retires, and especially if he does, with India struggling to find a finisher, the team might be better suited by Kohli at No.4 and positioning himself at the fag end of chases or even closing out first innings.
Even though Kohli has failed in the recent times, the stats support both theories. Out of 163 matches played by Kohli, he has scored 4520 runs at No.3. At number four, even though he has not been among runs in last few games, he averages 58.22 with 1744 runs from 37 ODI games. However, in the five games he has got to bat at No. 3, Rahane has scored three fifties, including the two in row in the current series against South Africa.
Here is Dhoni’s view. “I just have to tell them – ‘you bat at 3, you bat at 4.’ The batting order looks much more balanced (with Kohli at 4). It doesn’t really matter whether you are batting first, or whether you are chasing. Virat (Kohli) at 4, Raina or me at 5 and 6, followed by Axar, it gives that immense strength that’s really needed. These are the kind of batsmen who can play either type of cricket. If needed they can build partnerships, if needed they can play the big shots. It just gives that confidence into the middle order,” Dhoni said.
Dhoni sounded out his support for Rahane and used the IPL experience to aid his case. “He is a quality player. What I’ve seen in a couple of innings is, he’s batting with a bit more freedom. He has been amongst the best top order batsmen in IPL. He plays on wickets that are slightly difficult – they usually play on wickets that are on the greener side – but he’s somebody who can score a lot of runs through proper cricketing shots. And the more he spends time batting No.3, you’ll see his game will evolve more.”
Dhoni says Rahane bats with lot more freedom against spin once he is settles in after facing the seamers. “Once he bats at the top of the order, and then gets into the spinners part, he’s a bit more free. He rotates the strike freely and at the same time, he plays those big shots.” Dhoni believes No.4 isn’t that low a position anyway and after giving a lot of chances to Ambati Rayudu, he has realized that having Rahane at bench doesn’t make sense; so let Kohli make way for him.
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