Ajinkya Rahane debuted for India in 2013 and ever since he has become an integral part of the team. His temperament, ability to play in foreign conditions, and composed leadership secured him the vice-captain designation. Rahane’s sublime captaincy was on display when he superbly led the team to a historic series win in Australia. The gravity of the achievement was heightened by a variety of factors. First, the team was without Kohli (he was out due to paternity leave).
Second, they were humiliated in the first test when Australia got them all-out for 36. Lastly, the team was without its pace bowling spearheads such as Shami, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, and Bumbrah (post third test). After all these predicaments, Rahane infused the team with spirit and gusto and won them a historic away series.
However, Rahane’s form has blown hot and cold. He was without a century for two years i.e. from 2016-2018. He has not been able to build on his good innings. As seen in the WTC Finals, under pressure, he often crumbles. All of this when viewed together make Rahane’s the position in the team uncertain. Reports have emerged that the team management are looking for replacements for Pujara and Rahane. We look at 4 players who could potentially make no. 5 their own in tests.
Vihari may not have set the cricketing world on fire but has shown glimpses of the talent he possesses. His technique, temperament and ability to bide time on the pitch make him a solid no. 5. His tenacity was on display in the Sydney test when he batted for 161 balls with a hamstring pull.
Rahul was among the upcoming stars. His batting was eye-catching and he did play some solid innings. His 144 in England in 2018 remains one of his best knocks. However, his form has progressively dropped as a test opener. Recently, Rahul has made the no. 4 positions in ODIs his own. He has provided the much-needed stability to the ODI side. It is very much possible that Rahul would excel if given a chance to bat at no. 5 in tests.
Gill became an overnight superstar after playing life-changing knocks in the Australia series. His 91 at Gabba was the reason India could go for a win. However, his form has dipped post that series. For a youngster, Gill would be under pressure to play the moving ball in England. Therefore, it would be prudent to shift Mayank Aggarwal to his opening position. Aggarwal has proven to be an exceptional opener. Gill, having age on his side, can settle at no. 5.
Pant has proven that he is a mainstay for the team. He is here for a long-haul. With Pujara, Kohli and Rahane at 3, 4 and 5, the score board sometimes slows down. Therefore, as a new strategy, India can promote Pant to no. 5 from his current no. 6 to get the scoreboard ticking. Vihari could be brought in to play at no. 6 with Jadeja at 7. Thus, the overall balance of the team shall be maintained.