What’s the story?
With Indian skipper Virat Kohli suffering a shoulder injury, middle-order batsman Ajinkya Rahane had to take up captaincy duties during the latter part of the opening day of the Ranchi Test against Australia. Despite a lacklustre start to the match, the team’s fielding coach R Sridhar has refuted suggestions that the hosts lacked intent in their regular leader’s absence and backed them to get back into the contest in the coming days.
At the end of day press conference, Sridhar felt, “I thought Ajinkya did a very good job filling up for Virat. He was very sure of his plans and Ajinkya being Ajinkya, he was taking advice from (Ravichandran) Ashwin and Ishant Sharma who are the other seniors in the team. So it was quite democratic, I thought Ajinkya did a good job there.
“In Virat’s absence, he kept the energy levels going. He came out and positioned himself in the outfield, made sure he is communicating well with the bowler and he took inputs from the senior players. He did a good job.“
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In the post-lunch session, Kohli ran after the ball in an earnest attempt to stop a boundary. While unfurling a dive, he landed on his shoulder and immediately began to wince in pain. When he left the field to receive medical assistance, Rahane stepped into his shoes. For almost 51 overs, the Mumbaikar called the shots for India.
The heart of the matter
Rahane’s first move as stand-in captain was to bring Umesh Yadav back into the attack in place of Ishant Sharma. The bowling change worked as the Vidarbha speedster trapped Peter Handscomb with an extremely full delivery. At 140/4, India appeared to have seized the upper hand after losing the toss on a flat surface.
However, Steven Smith and Glenn Maxwell had other ideas. They put on an unbeaten 159-run partnership to take the visitors to a dominant position of 299/4 at the end of the first day’s play. As the Australian skipper manoeuvred the field to bring up his second century of the tour, India looked bereft of ideas.
Rahane was spotted having frequent discussions with the other senior plays like Ashwin and Sharma. The decision to delay the second new-ball by six overs reiterated their mindset on what was a gruelling day. Alluding to the Mumbai and Chennai Tests against England, Sridhar insisted that India had been in such situations before and thus possess the wherewithal to bounce back.
In order to identify the extent of his injury, Kohli has undergone scans on his right shoulder. Early reports indicate that he will not take the field for the remainder of the Test and may come out to bat only if the situation demands him to do so.
Very much the heart of the team, Kohli’s absence had its effect on the opening day’s action. Often stirring the bowlers and getting the crowd into the act, his unavailability resulted in lack of energy from the home side. Considering the fact that he has not led the country before in the longest format, Rahane needs the support of the other seniors to plot India’s comeback in the coming days.