There have been many contenders, but the search for a rightful heir to the position is still on. Of them, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina got a decent run, but both have disappointed.
When Virat Kohli carved out that magnificent 116 in Adelaide, batting at No. 6, it looked as if he would get a longer run in that slot. But VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid’s retirement meant that he was pushed up the batting order. As India prepares to face Australia, the No. 6 position would be up for grabs again. And who better then Ajinkya Rahane to be tried out there.
The Mumbai batsman fits the bill and can lend solidity lower down the order. The challenge of batting at No. 6 is to play according to the need of the situation.
Adaptability and the temperament to see through any phase, whether it is pushing the run rate, playing the new ball or shepherding the tail, is the key to succeed. And Rahane’s game is suited to meet those needs.
Rahane’s strength is his technique and he has also given the impression of a calm temperament, though it remains to be tested in the heat of a five- day battle. The way he scored his runs in last year’s Indian Premier League is ample evidence of his talent. There was no improvisation and no crossbatted heaves. All his runs were accumulated through conventional strokes, and at a rapid pace. It was a treat to watch someone using his technical prowess to score in the shortest format. So, if the need of the hour is to grind, or to accelerate scoring, Rahane has the ability to do so.
One of the key reasons for India’s downfall in the series against England was James Anderson and his ability to trouble the Indian batsmen with reverse swing. With the battery of pacers Australia has in their ranks, they would look to make the most of the old ball. With a technically solid batsman like Rahane coming at No. 6, the team can breathe easy.
Shepherding the tail is an art that VVS Laxman and Ganguly, coming lower down the order, mastered well. Sometimes they would cover up the bowlers, while at times they would give them a free hand depending on the situation of the match and the comfort level of the batsman. Rahane’s temperament should come handy here.
Ravindra Jadeja is a contender for the slot. Having struck two triple centuries in Ranji Trophy, the left- arm spinner is being seen as an allrounder.
When Jadeja replaced Yuvraj in the fourth Test against England in Nagpur, it was skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni who batted at No. 6 and stroked a brilliant 99. A stop gap arrangement would not provide a solution. It is time to test a youngster like Rahane for the crucial spot.