'A' grade contract man Raina should play Tests

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but the Indian team’s think tank in Australia has made some strange selections in this season’s Border-Gavaskar Trophy series.

First was to blood young leg-spinner Karn Sharma in the opening Test at Adelaide instead of playing premier off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. Sharma ended up with four wickets in the match, but three of those were batsmen who had centuries to their names. Expectedly, Sharma was dropped for the next Test at Brisbane. Equally baffling was the omission of Umesh Yadav for the opener because not only is he a sharp pace bowler, he also has experience of the 2011-12 Australia tour.

The latest debatable selectorial decision surrounds the inclusion of Lokesh Rahul, essentially an opening batsman, but used as a No 6 batsman on his Test debut after Rohit Sharma failed to hit the high notes in the previous two Tests. Indeed, it was a brave call, but the team management chose to ignore Suresh Raina, who deserved to be in the playing XI simply because selectors Sandeep Patil & Co have picked him for that position. It must be noted that Raina has an ‘A’ Grade BCCI contract.

Meanwhile, Rahul looked out of place and made mockery of the responsibility that was thrust on him after the departure of centurion Ajinkya Rahane. On the seventh ball he faced, the Karnataka batsman lofts to mid-wicket where substitute fielder Peter Siddle drops the catch. And instead of cashing in on his good fortune, he immediately decides to play the sweep shot before a top edge lands in the hands of Josh Hazlewood at backward square leg. One cannot be too harsh on a young batsman, who understandably had a high degree of nervous energy, but his Test debut could have been delayed in a scenario where a far more experienced batsman (Raina) was available.

On one hand, the national selectors have done well not to treat Rahane as an opening batsman option and the Mumbai batsman's success in the middle order is there for all to see. On the other hand, the team management is trying to fit an opening batsman in the middle order. It makes little sense even though Rahul has a good chance to make amends for his impetuosity in the second innings.

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