Rahane still India's most important Test batsman, says Kohli after humbling loss

By Sports Desk February 09, 2021

Virat Kohli bristled at the suggestion that Ajinkya Rahane's place in the India batting line-up could be in jeopardy following a heavy first Test defeat to England in Chennai.

Needing an improbable 420 to win, India resumed the final day on 39-1 but Jack Leach (4-76) continued his impressive record in fourth innings and James Anderson (3-17) produced a masterful display of reverse swing to dismiss the hosts for 192.

From the moment visiting skipper Joe Root embarked upon his mammoth first-innings 218, India found themselves in the unusual position of being comprehensively outplayed on home soil.

It left Root's opposite number, Kohli, to field some awkward questions - not least on Rahane, who managed a solitary run in the match and has a highest score of 37 in the seven knocks following his superb century at Melbourne in the Boxing Day Test.

That effort saw vice-captain Rahane leading a stunning comeback series win from the front in Australia. India triumphed 2-1 in a four-match rubber following a thrashing in the first Test, after which Kohli went home for the birth of his first child.

"Look, if you're trying to dig something out, you're not going to get anything because there's nothing," Kohli told reporters, seemingly aware how him agreeing to Rahane being under pressure might look in the context of his heroics versus Australia.

"I've said this many times in the past as well - along with Cheteshwar Pujara, he is our most important Test batsman and he is going to continue to be.

"We believe in his abilities, we have believed in his abilities for a long time now and he's an impact player.

"If you're talking about the MCG Test, he stood up and scored a hundred when the team wanted it the most. So, you can look at a number of innings and what happens from thereon, but the reality of the situation is they've won the series in Australia."

As such, Kohli is satisfied his players remain in good form overall and appears unlikely to make wholesale changes for the second Test, which starts back at M.A. Chidambaram Stadium on Saturday.

"There's absolutely no issues, everyone's playing really well and we just need to be focused a lot more, understand that Test victories are earned in any conditions - whether they're your own or you're playing away," Kohli added.

"Nothing is a given in Test cricket and we need to be aware of that reality and work together as a team to keep putting a lot of pressure on the opposition. That's our focus." 

Related items

  • Hot shots: Five players to watch in West Indies’ pursuit of T20 glory Hot shots: Five players to watch in West Indies’ pursuit of T20 glory

    With the 2012 and 2016 titles already to their credit, West Indies will no doubt be intent on adding this year’s ICC Men’s T20 World Cup crown to their accolades, but achieving that feat will require efficient all-round execution from the off.

    Like the 19 other participating teams in the historic June 1-29 showpiece, the Darren Sammy-coached 15-man squad –to be led by Jamaican Rovman Powell –is lined with its own fair share of talent and explosive batting, enough to prove a formidable force, as they seek to make amends for their disappointing campaign two years ago.

    Still, among the blend of experience and youthful exuberance, it is no secret that a few players will be heavily relied on, more than others, to carry the weight of the Caribbean side’s chances to possibly finish tops in a tournament they co-host with United States.

    That said, SportsMax.TV zones in on five key players –in no particular order –that cricket enthusiasts worldwide will undoubtedly keep a keen eye on where their performances are concerned, eager to witness the West Indies’ quest for another T20 World Cup title.

    Rovman Powell –Middle order batsman and captain

    Took over leadership of the T20 team from Nicholas Pooran after the failed 2022 outing in Australia. Since his appointment last year, Powell has emerged as a crucial figure in the West Indies T20 setup, both as a powerful middle-order batsman and a strategic leader. He led the regional side to three bilateral series victories over South Africa, India and England, before a loss to Australia earlier this year.

    Besides the fact that Powell’s leadership skills have been instrumental in shaping a cohesive unit, his ability to turn games around with his aggressive batting style makes him a player to watch.

    The hard-hitting Jamaican has so far scored more than 1,300 runs at a strike rate of 144.81 in 61 international innings and nearly 4,000 overs in all T20 matches, with 16 fifty-plus scores to his name. Powell’s penchant for big hits and sixes can also be evidenced by his boundary numbers, which feature more maximums than fours across all T20s.

    Powell’s overall experience in domestic and international T20 leagues certainly adds a layer of tactical acumen to his game, and his knack for hitting sixes under pressure and guiding the team through challenging situations will be vital to West Indies' campaign.