Johannesburg : India vice-captain KL Rahul conceded that the decision on who will bat at number five will be a very, very difficult one to make. He added that the team will start to talk about it either from today or tomorrow. Ajinkya Rahane has been batting at number five for long. But an indifferent run of form means Hanuma Vihari and Shreyas Iyer have emerged as contenders for the spot.
“It is a very, very difficult decision to make. I think Ajinkya has been a very important part of our Test team and has played very, very crucial knocks in his career. In the last 15-18 months, if I think back, his knock in Melbourne was really, really crucial and helped us win a Test match. The partnership with Pujara in the second innings at Lord’s, where he got a fifty, was really important and that ended up in us winning the Test match. So, he has been a key player for us in that middle order and is a very, very strong player,” said Rahul in the virtual press conference.
“Shreyas has taken his chances and played a brilliant knock in Kanpur and got a hundred, so he’s very exciting. Hanuma has done the same for us. It’s a tough decision and will start having a chat today or tomorrow and you will get to know in coming days’ time,” added Rahul.
Rahul opined that the nature of the pitch at Centurion oscillates between slow and quick. “Even the last time we played here, the wicket started off a bit slow and then quickened up and got slow again. I think whatever information we can gather for this Centurion pitch, it’s been that kind of pitch. Even in the centre-wicket practice, we have experienced same things and we tried to prepare accordingly.”
Rahul fully backed the five-bowler strategy which has given India success in recent overseas tours. “I think most teams have started playing four bowlers and every team wants to pick up 20 wickets and that’s the only way you can win a Test match. We have definitely used that tactic and it has helped us in every Test match that we have played away from India. So, the workload also becomes slightly easier to manage that way with five bowlers and when you have that kind of quality, you might as well use it.”
The 29-year-old stated that vice-captaincy duties won’t take an effect on his role at the top of the order but will engage him more while fielding. “According to me, there hasn’t been any. You always have the responsibility when you are the opener as you have to give a good start to the team. There will be no difference in terms of batting. But I think in the field, there will be more involvement with regards to doing strategies and practically passing information to Virat (Kohli). If we try and work together, then it will be really helpful and will take some pressure off Virat.”
Rahul played a crucial role in India going up 2-1 in England before the last Test in Manchester was cancelled because of fear of a COVID-19 outbreak in the camp, scoring 315 runs in eight innings at an average of 39.37. He is hopeful of carrying his good run in England to South Africa. “The only thing in my hands is how to prepare in the best way to give myself the best chance to perform and succeed in these conditions. The preparation has been going very well here. Not just me, everyone in the team had a good time in the middle.”
“I will try to give my team a good start like the way I did in England. As I said before, new ball is very important, especially in South Africa. How I get through that new ball and try to score big for my team. Hopefully, I can continue the from England here in South Africa.”
Rahul signed off by saying that the talk in the Indian team has been only about the first Test. “The discussion so far has only been about the first Test match. We are not thinking too far ahead. The first Test match of the series is the most important for us to start well. All our discussion and focus has been on trying to do the best in the first game and get the team off to a good start, be it with the bat or ball.”