After a 15-month hiatus from the longest format of the game, Ajinkya Rahane has been called up to the Indian squad to face Australia in the World Test Championship final in June.
The veteran was the stand-out name in India's 15-man squad named on Tuesday for the all-important five-dayer at the Oval.
With a lower back injury ruling Shreyas Iyer out, the BCCI selectors were faced with the task of filling a critical spot to slot in after India's spine in Pujara and Kohli. Amongst a talented shortlist, Suryakumar Yadav and Hanuma Vihari were initially most tipped to be called up for the big test.
However, with IPL to play before the big test, it is Rahane who made it a mission to have his name included in the conversation. He has looked like a completely reformed batsman and has been in impeccable form this IPL. The former Indian captain has scored 224 runs in 6 matches at an average of 44.80 aiding his franchise, Chennai Super Kings to a spot on the top of the table. Despite the BCCI consistently ruling out IPL bias for selections, Rahane in this form with the experience and knowledge he carries is a serious threat to any opposition.
On the domestic front, Rahane captained his side, Mumbai, and led them to the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 title. During the longer format of the domestic circuit, Rahane insisted that he was not giving up hopes for a comeback and ended the season with 634 runs in 11 innings at an average of 57.63.
In Rahane's 82-match test career, he has racked up the most runs against Australia, scoring 1090 runs in 17 test matches, and will have the temperament to face the likes of Starc and Cummins whom he has faced on multiple prior occasions. However, Rahane also has troubled times batting on English pitches, scoring only 729 runs at an average of 26.03.
Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar hailed the selection of Rahane in the Test side as a replacement for Shreyas Iyer and claimed the Mumbaikar has been rewarded for a good show in the domestic circuit.
“That was the only change needed for the Indian side. They needed a replacement for Shreyas Iyer. Ajinkya Rahane finds himself in the WTC squad not because of his current IPL form, mind you, he was in a pretty decent form in the Ranji Trophy. He did very well for Mumbai in the domestic season. The question now is in the final eleven, who's going to be playing? Whether it will be KS Bharat the wicket-keeper or KL Rahul. We'll just have to wait and see."
Many experts believe that Rahane's inclusion in the squad is a one-off selection and it might actually be but the right-handed bat absolutely has what it takes to perform on the big stage and help those around him construct an innings and give India a real chance at clinching the World Test Championship.