India coach Ravi Shastri on Monday defended the team management's decision to play Rohit Sharma in place of Ajinkya Rahane from the first two Tests in South Africa. Shastri said Rohit was the best option in the playing XI going by his current limited-overs form. One of the most successful Indian batsmen overseas in recent years, vice-captain Rahane was not picked for the Tests in Cape Town and Centurion.
But Sharma's failure to live up to the expectations and the Indian batting's inability to stand up to the South African pace attack in the preceding matches attracted widespread criticism, forcing the management to rethink about Rahane.
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"If Ajinkya (Rahane) had played the first Test and not done well, you would have asked me the same question about why Rohit hasn't played. Rohit played, he didn't do well, so you are asking me why Ajinkya didn't play," a defiant Shastri told reporters when queried about the selection policy.
"The same would have happened with the fast bowlers. So you have choices. The team management has discussed what is the best option. They stick by it and they go by it," Shastri said.
"Overseas, you go on current form, you go on conditions.
You see which player can adapt to certain conditions quicker than the other," he added.
But if yesterday and today's practice sessions at the Wanderers were any indication, there is a possibility of Rahane's return to the playing XI for the inconsequential third Test starting here on Wednesday.
The India coach said on overseas tours, a team is forced to select their playing XI keeping conditions in mind.
"Chopping and changing overseas is easier. In India, you don't need to chop and change because you know what the conditions are and for which bowler to play, as opposed to what kind of track you will get," Shastri said.
"Whether you need a bowler with the bounce or you need a bowler with swing, so that's where the chopping and changing starts," he added.
Shastri also refused to the criticism back home.
"Experts are meant to do a job. They can say what they want. It doesn't affect us. They have a job to do, so they are entitled to what they say," Shastri signed off.
Shastri's dig at experts came following former India opener Virender Sehwag's criticism of skipper Virat Kohli's selection policy.
After suffering a 72-run defeat in the first Test in Cape Town, India made three changes to their playing XI with KL Rahul replacing Shikhar Dhawan and Ishant Sharma coming in for Bhuvneshwar Kumar, whose three-wicket burst in the first morning of the opening Test had rocked the hosts.
And Sehwag did not mince words when he stated that Kohli "should drop himself" if he fails in the second Test against South Africa.
(With PTI Inputs)