India vs New Zealand: Virat Kohli Says Ajinkya Rahane Is Team's Third Opener
Virat Kohli said he would not want Ajinkya Rahane to get confused by playing him in the middle order.
India skipper Virat Kohli at a pre-match conference on Saturday made it clear that Ajinkya Rahane is the team's third opener , effectively ruling him out of tomorrow's One-Day International (ODI) series opener against New Zealand at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai on Sunday. Kohli reiterated that when there are four guys in the team playing in a similar position then one has to miss out as only two can play in the playing XI. Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma are India's regular openers. But in the absence of Dhawan, Rahane had opened the batting for India and hit four half-centuries on the trot in the recent five-match ODI series against Australia, which the home team won 4-1.
"He's (Rahane) definitely grabbed his opportunities as the third opener. As I mentioned there was K L (Rahul) as well competing for the (opening) spot. But Jinx (Rahane) has performed well, stood up and taken his chances.
"That's how the dynamics of a team work when you have four guys who play in a similar position and obviously one of them will have to miss out as only two can play in the XI," Kohli said.
Kohli said he would not want Rahane to get confused by playing him in the middle order.
"We don't want him (Rahane) to confuse too much by making him play in the middle order because you need to find your game in ODI cricket. You need to understand how to go about things in ODI cricket and he has always been solid at the top of the order because of his technique and he likes playing there. It gives him freedom to go after the bowlers.
"So as I said we don't want to confuse him, he is in a happy space and he knows whenever someone is not going through a good phase or there is an injury, he is there, right at the door steps waiting to play a game whenever the team requires him to," said the skipper.
Rahane, who made his debut against England in 2011, has played 84 ODIs amassing 2,822 runs with 111 as his best score.
On KL Rahul not being a part of the team, Kohli said, "In this series, Dinesh has come in for KL. We felt KL, because he opens mostly, we don't want to have a situation like Rahane was going through in between, having to play in the middle order forcefully because of what the top order was doing.
"We thought that it is better that K L gets game time in the first class level, so we have got in Dinesh, who has always played in the middle order and is more comfortable and aware of how to bat in the middle order."
Kohli said the team needed to strike a "good balance".
"We need to bring in guys who have the ability and have done well in domestic cricket and India A, and track their performances and give them chances accordingly."
The skipper admitted that the spin duo -- Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal -- was so good that he was tempted to play them together.
"We need to find our best bowling combination before we reach the World Cup stage. We always had in mind to bring spinners into play. We honestly did not think of playing the two together but they are so good together, it is tempting to play them in every game."
Kohli said that with the youngsters coming in, a strong pool of slow bowlers has been created before the World Cup, to be held in England in 2019.
"(Ravichandran) Ashwin and (Ravindra) Jadeja have played limited overs cricket for last 6-7 years regularly. These youngsters have stepped up and it creates a strong pool for us before the World Cup," he said.
- Will give rest to key batsmen ahead of overseas tours -
With two hectic and crucial overseas tours lined-up, India captain Virat Kohli said they will give much-needed rest to some key batsmen of the team to manage their workload.
After playing against New Zealand and Sri Lanka at home, India will embark on a tour of South Africa, involving three Tests, six ODIs and three T20 Internationals in January next year.
The South Africa series will be followed by a grueling and lengthy tour of England where India will play three T20s, three ODIs and five Tests starting July, 2018.
"Everyone needs time to come back, especially the fast bowlers. So we are doing that now with Umesh (Yadav) and (Mohammad) Shami. We want them fresh for a Test season coming up. We don't want overtired players and that's something we have spoken about already.
"Even some of the key batsmen will definitely get some rest in the future weeks because of the importance of the away tours coming up. So we will have to figure out ways to do that. But it's certainly a thing that we need to discuss for the future as well," he added.