India have tinkered around with the batting position of their best performing Test batsman of the last year Ajinkya Rahane, moving him from No. 5 to No. 3 in the recent Test series against Sri Lanka, a move that has raised some criticism.
In some quarters, it was seen as an attempt to include Rohit Sharma, who was failing at No.3, and in the process creating pressure on Rahane. On Thursday, Rahul Dravid, former India captain, weighed in on the issue, saying that while Rahane will have to adapt to the needs of the team but that he is best suited for No 5.
“I think he is best at No 5. I think he would be a very good No 4 and No. 5 batsman in Test. I am not saying he won’t be a good No.3 because he batted there, but the success he had at No. 5, his ability to bat with the tail and the range of shorts he has, makes him a very good No.5, also his ability to play the second new ball,” Dravid said during a book launch of former cricketer Aakash Chopra in Mumbai. “Obviously he (Rahane) is required to bat at whatever position his team needs. But for me No. 5 is the position where he will probably do best in Tests,” Dravid said.
Dravid also shared an interesting observation about Virat Kohli’s batting. He recollected an Irani Trophy game between Rest Of India and Delhi in 2008 where Virat Kohli had lots of problems against bouncers. Zaheer Khan was the bowler who harassed Kohli with a slew of bouncers in the first innings of that game. “Kohli was a walking wicket against bouncers then. Six months later I saw him and that problem was gone. He had sorted it out. That’s what I admire about Kohli.”
Dravid then talked about the qualities of Rahane that he admires. “What I really like about him is that he has had to work very hard to get into the Indian side. In a sense it has been similar to someone like me. I spent five years, 55-60 first-class games, 17-18 hundreds to get into the India side. That is similar to him. He averages 60 in first-class cricket to get into the side.
“Maybe he was not perceived to be as flashy as other people. Maybe he did not look as good as other people did. But the results are there to see. If you look at the last year and a half there are so many overseas tours India has played and Ajinkya has probably been India’s best batsman with runs and hundreds in probably every country he has played in.
“That has been terrific for me to see how he has grown. The fact that he has kept his patience. It would not have been easy. When you see people racing ahead of you with not maybe the same first-class runs as you, suddenly getting more opportunities, I am sure that would not have been easy for him. It needs mental strength and courage to do that. For me the most pleasing fact is he has come out on the other side, the fact that has happened tells me there is the potential for a long and successful career. ”
Rahane, who was sitting alongside Dravid in the function, just smiled and the talk moved on to the Indian batting against spin and in particular the collapse in the first Test at Galle which led to a loss.
Dravid and Chopra had talked about the need to rotate strike, and importance of defence against spin, and a sense of patience that is required at this level. Rahane was confident that Indians will put up a better display in the upcoming home series against South Africa.
“Shikhar got injured during the game while fielding,” Rahane said about the final day’s play in the first Test. “He was batting in pain. We needed one partnership but could not get it and we lost wickets at regular intervals. Our approach was to play not too defensive, it was to play normal cricket – not too positive, not too defensive. What we decided in the morning was that we will play as if it is the first innings, whoever is set will look to end the game for the team but we lost wickets.
“I don’t think we are playing spin badly. We have to give credit to the spinners Rangana (Herath and Kaushal) as well. Unfortunately we got out to spinners. We played fast bowlers very well in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand. Our intention against spin was to play out the first spell and find out what he is trying to do. We are looking to improve against spin because we do not play spin in India so badly.”
he fun quote of the evening, though, came from Dravid. Asked about the importance of footwork, and whether the modern-day batsmen’s game revolves more on “hands”, Dravid said with a smile. “Good legs never go out of fashion,” cuing up peals of laughter.