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Ajinkya plays the Laxman role well: Dhoni

Indian skipper is pleased with the way Rahane keeps the scorecard ticking at No. 5

By Shirin Sadikot in
After the pendulum swung either way for five days, the Boxing Day Test ended with India holding on to a fighting draw. With the first non-result Test at the MCG since 1996, Australia have regained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with one match to spare.

The final day began with Australia stretching their innings till lunch, setting India an improbable 384 to chase in 70 overs. The game was called off with four overs to spare with India on 174 for 6.

Analyzing the Test, Indian captain, MS Dhoni said he would take the draw after India were reduced to 19 for 3.

“When we went into the match, we wanted to win. But as the match panned out, by the time we began our batting in the second innings, it was a difficult one for us to win,” Dhoni said. “When we lost a couple of early wickets and then Vijay got out, we were in a situation from where we could have lost the game. From there on, we said we would accept draw as a fair result.”

As it happened in the first two Tests, here too India failed to capitalize after getting themselves in a strong position. Their last seven wickets managed to add merely 56 runs in the first innings, handing Australia a lead of 65 runs. Then, despite bowling well in the second innings, they couldn’t pick 10 Australian wickets.

“We seem to put pressure on ourselves as if there isn’t already,” the Indian captain said. “Our second innings bowling was good. But somehow we keep getting ourselves in trouble. Here too we gave them a first innings lead of 60-odd runs. We got wickets in the second innings but their lower order contributed. It was very difficult to score over 300 runs in one day.”

Among his bowlers, Dhoni was particularly impressed with R Ashwin’s performance in the match. “We play with four bowlers which becomes tough on them. But I was very happy with the way Ashwin bowled because he was able to contain and pick wickets as well. He really helped out the fast bowlers.”

The big debate of the day revolved around Australia’s decision to declare their second innings. Instead of giving his bowlers enough time to pick 10 Indian wickets, Australian captain, Steve Smith, chose to add a few more runs to the overnight lead of 326 in order to take India’s win out of the equation.

Dhoni agreed that the caution on Australia’s part could have been influenced by India’s staunch reply to the 364-run chase in Adelaide.

“In Adelaide had we played out the full number of overs and not got out, the result would have been in our favour. That could have played on their minds,” he said.

One interesting aspect of India’s final innings was the promotion of debutant KL Rahul at No. 3. He came ahead of Cheteshwar Pujara, who batted at 6. Dhoni said he wanted Pujara’s experience in the middle order in case of early loss of wickets. He also wanted to give Rahul a chance to bat at a position familiar to him.

“We thought if what happened (a couple of quick wickets) happened, Pujara is a better man to have at that point of time,” Dhoni explained. “Also, it gave us a chance to test Rahul in the top-order, where he usually bats.”

Rahul had an inauspicious debut, as he scored 3 and 1 before miscuing a pull in both innings. Dhoni said that despite the slow start, he believes the 22-yer-old batsman has it in him to make a successful Test career for himself.

“He has been batting really well in the nets. We shouldn’t judge him on the basis of this one performance,” Dhoni said. “He is very compact and solid and at the same time likes to play his shots. He didn’t get runs in this match but we will give him more chances because he is definitely someone for us to look to in the future.”

Another batsman that impressed the skipper was Ajinkya Rahane, with his scores of 147 and 48. Dhoni said he is filling in the role of VVS Laxman well at No. 5.

“Ajinkya is doing really well. He is very similar to VVS Laxman in the way he scores his runs. When he is at the crease the runs will keep flowing. It is good to have someone like him at No. 5 who can keep the fluency of runs by rotating the strike and can play the big shots as well.

“He still has plenty to learn and he is very good in that area – what he has learned so far and the changes he has made in his game, he has put it forward really well. He is exciting and hopefully we will see better performances from him,” Dhoni said.