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Rahul Dravid prefers Ajinkya Rahane to bat at no. 5 in Tests

Mumbai: Joining the debate over Ajinkya Rahane's batting order in Tests, former India captain Rahul Dravid said today he prefers his one-time Rajasthan Royals teammate to bat at no. 5 and not one-down, a position
PTI September 04, 2015 20:55 IST

Mumbai: Joining the debate over Ajinkya Rahane's batting order in Tests, former India captain Rahul Dravid said today he prefers his one-time Rajasthan Royals teammate to bat at no. 5 and not one-down, a position he was sent in the last two Tests in Sri Lanka recently.  

“He's good at no. 5, or even 4, because of his ability to play with the tail-enders, the range of shots he possesses and for the opportunity he would get to face the second new ball too,” a visibly reluctant Dravid told former Test opener Aakash Chopra at the launch of the latter's book “The Insider” here.

It was interesting to note that Rahane was sitting by his side on the dais when Chopra put the question to the 42-year-old cricket legend, “Ajinkya at no. 3 or 5, what do you want?”

The debate has arisen as Rahane, who has been the most consistent of all Indian middle order batsmen on the  overseas tours to South Africa, New Zealand, England and South Africa - at no. 5 - was asked to bat at no. 3 in the second and third Tests against Lanka, both played at Colombo and won by India for a 2-1 series win, after he had batted at no. 5 in the lost first Test at Galle.

While scoring a second innings century for a winning cause at the P Sara Oval in the second Test, Rahane failed to reach double figures in the other three innings in which he batted at no. 3.

His Mumbai teammate Rohit Sharma, who flopped at no. 3 in the series opener, made two half centuries (79 and 50) and also got good starts in the other two innings in which he was demoted to no. 5 - the slot previously occupied by Rahane.  

Another cricket legend, Sunil Gavaskar, was scathing in his views about the change in batting order during the second Test while talking to a TV channel.  “I have just got to be blunt. They have just sacrificed a good man.

He's one of those nice and quiet guys who won't say anything. He has been pushed to number three when he had success at number five. It's hard on him.  “But he will do whatever is needed. He comes from Rahul Dravid school. Rahul had also batted at no. 3 and 5.  He's Rahane's mentor and he (Rahane) will do the same thing,” Gavaskar said.

However, Dravid said that at times, like it happened during the just-concluded Test series in Sri Lanka, Rahane would have to come up the order and bat at no. 3 to help the team's cause.

“At times for the sake of the team he may have to bat at no. 3, as it happened in Lanka,” said India's most successful no. 3 Test batsman.

The 164-Test veteran was full of praise for Rahane for the manner in which he has waited by scoring tons of runs in domestic cricket to force his way into the Indian squad and then, once he did so, nailing that spot with consistent batting.

“The only similarities between us that I see is that both of us had to wait for 4-5 years and score a lot of runs at plus 60 average in domestic cricket before breaking into the Indian team.

He has many more shots than me. Ajinkya, perhaps, has been our best batsman over the last few series overseas. He has hit so many hundreds. He has great potential,” Dravid gushed in praise of the 27-year-old.

Dravid, who holds the world record for the number of catches (210) taken in Tests by a fielder other than the wicket-keeper, singled out the catching of the Virat Kohli-led squad in the series in Lanka as “exceptional”.

“Some of the catches we saw in the series were exceptional. For example the catch by Rahane off (Kumar) Sangakkara (off Ravichandran Ashwin in the first innings of the first Test).”

He said with the competition for the batting spots intensifying in the team, following the match-winning century (145) by comeback man Cheteshwar Pujara, a very interesting time is in the offing for Indian cricket.

“India has a lot of options once the injured Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay return. There is Rahane, there is (K L) Rahul, Virat himself. Rohit has hit a few half centuries recently and Pujara was exceptional. It's an interesting time for Indian cricket.”
Dravid felt that in modern-day Test cricket, where emphasis is on attacking batting, the positives of rotating the strike by taking singles - with the in-out field employed by most captains - was equally important.

“Players need to react better than what they are doing now against in-out fields,” he explained.