Why Raina when there's Rahane?

The national cricket selectors’ decision (presumably backed by captain MS Dhoni) to include middle-order batsman Suresh Raina in the squad for Friday’s Delhi Test against Australia in place of injured opener Shikhar Dhawan is difficult to comprehend on cricketing grounds.

Replacing Dhawan, who won the man-of-the-match award for his 187 on debut in last week’s Mohali Test with another opening batsman should have been simple for the selectors. Sandeep Patil & Co’s wisdom to recall Gautam Gambhir for a home Test is understandable, but when they discovered that the left-handed batsman is suffering from jaundice, they chose Raina, who has seldom impressed at Test level since his debut century in 2010.

All this happens when Mumbai’s Ajinkya Rahane is in the squad as a middle-order reserve. As things stand, the squad for the Delhi Test has two reserve middle-order batsmen (Raina and Rahane) and only one specialist opening batsman in Murali Vijay. So much for balance!

Selectors should not only be ruthless, but very fair too. Picking another middle-order player will not do the confidence of the promising Rahane any good. Probably, a degree of frustration may have already crept in simply because players don’t benefit too much sitting on the reserve bench. Rahane has sat there since late last year.

Rahane happens to belong to a state association where Patil is chairman of the senior selection committee. Backing a player from his backyard would attract cynicism but doesn’t Patil believe Rahane deserves a look-in? Wouldn’t it be wise to blood him in a home Test so that he can use up all that confidence if and when he is needed to ply his trade on the fast and bouncy wickets of South Africa later in the year?

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