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Mumbai, September 26

India’s Test team vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane has said it is “hard” for him see Rohit Sharma sitting out of the Test team, even as Rohit seeks to revive his career in the traditional format in the role of an opener.

Rahane, who himself had been going through a slump, was back in form during the West Indies series, and he and Hanuma Vihari have cemented the two available slots in the middle-order, prompting the team management to try out Rohit as an opener the Test series against South Africa. Rahane was asked to give his opinion on Rohit’s new role and the right-hander didn’t give a direct reply. “You want an answer actually? I don’t know yet whether Rohit will open the innings. If he does, I will be happy for him. I said in West Indies also, it is hard to see a special talent like Rohit sitting out,” Rahane said.

Rohit has three hundreds in 27 Tests and an average of 39.62. Many believe that Rohit’s audacious strokeplay is the cause of his modest Test record, but Rahane thinks Rohit has the talent to do well in Tests. “He has worked so hard and if he gets an opportunity, I am sure, he will do well,” Rahane said.

“We all know the quality he has. Test cricket is all about mindset,” Rahane said. “In ODI cricket, you can just go out there and back yourself. In Test cricket, if two bowlers are bowling good spells, you need to respect that and come out strong and play your game after that.” 

Rahane himself has been playing only one international format, Tests, and faces the challenge of getting playing opportunities. “At the highest level, you face quality bowlers all the time. All of them are equally good. You don’t get loose balls easily. You need to practise really hard. Your practice sessions should be really hard so that when you step in to play a match, it gets easy for you,” said Rahane, who has played 58 Tests and 90 ODIs. “Preparation and process is the key. You need to believe yourself and come out strongly. If I can keep my mind at the present — that is Test cricket — other things will fall automatically.”

Having last played an ODI 18 months ago, Rahane wants to have another shot at the 50-overs format. “I really enjoy playing ODI cricket as well. I want to come back to ODIs. Right now, the focus is completely on this series. After the Australia series, there was a long break. When I got to know that I was not part of the World Cup squad, my plan was to play county cricket, and luckily, Hampshire called me,” he added.

While India will be the favourites against South Africa, Rahane said their bowlers such as Kagiso Rabada and Keshav Maharaj need to be respected. “Rabada is a quality bowler. He is a wicket-taker. It doesn’t matter how the wicket will be. We have to respect him and the other bowlers. They have got a relatively young team but their bowling attack is experienced. Keshav Maharaj has played county cricket and did well in the red-ball format. You need to respect them,” Rahane said.

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