Indians hit the running after mini break

Indians hit the running after mini break

Rahane sweats it out at Wanderers

Indians hit the running after mini break

With their hopes of maiden series win dashed and their mighty reputations -- built on familiar pitches and against some mediocre opponents -- damaged, India will be hoping for a consolation win in the third Test and avoid the first whitewash on the South African soil.

After three days of rest and recreation, the Indian team, including the reinforcements, held a long, hard and intense training session under the harsh sun at the Wanderers' practice facilities here on Sunday. Shardul Thakur and Navdeep Saini -- the two pacemen summoned by the team management to bowl during training -- were put to optimum use even as Wriddhiman Saha's replacement, Dinesh Karthik, was given some serious workout by throwdown specialist Raghu at the "nets." KL Rahul and M Vijay too had lengthy stints while Shikhar Dhawan bided his time for his turn to come.

All the focus, though, was on Ajinkya Rahane whose exclusion from the playing XI for the first two Tests has come in for some serious criticism. Rohit Sharma, who has been preferred over his Mumbai mate, has done little to justify the faith reposed in him by messers Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri, the captain-head coach duo. He looked ill at ease on the pacy, bouncy, seaming track of Newlands, being dismissed for 10 and 11 in the two innings. On the SuperSport Park pitch, which was more like the Wankhede surface with pace and bounce at a premium, he managed 10 in the first innings and 47 in the second when India's cause had been all but lost.

Besides making selections that have been put to scrutiny, the explanations or justification for making such choices by Kohli have been at once confusing and contradictory. He defended Rohit's selection saying he was an inform batsman but when asked about Bhuvneshwar Kumar's omission for the second Test, he said it was based on conditions.

"There are many people that are involved in making a decision for the playing XI. A lot was spoken about Bhuvi as well but (Mohammad) Shami performed in this game. So now no one is talking about that. So, you know it's all about whoever goes out on the field and performs," he had said after the series loss.

So far so good, but then he went on to add: "We obviously look at the conditions that we are playing in and we decide as a management group and the captain myself sitting together, that what is the best XI that we can take on the field."

Rahane is a proven performer in these conditions and if conditions indeed dictate team selection, shouldn't he have been chosen ahead of Rohit? What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Rahane, who has been batting after Rohit in the nets all these days, batted ahead of the fellow Mumbaikar after a lengthy chat with Kohli, also involving all-rounder Hardik Pandya on the day. An animated Kohli did all the talking and Rahane and Pandya just listened to him, occasionally nodding their heads in agreement.

After facing a local net bowler and R Ashwin, Rahane moved to the main ground where fielding coach R Sridhar put him through some slip catching along with Rahul. The Karnataka batsman left soon but Rahane continued with his catching routine and pulled off some stunners that received loud appreciation from Ravindra Jadeja, the man assisting Sridhar with practice drills. Once he was done with his catching, Rahane ran back to the nets and faced throwdowns and pace bowlers. If this was any hint -- with this team what you see is not mostly what you get -- then Rahane may just gain his rightful spot in the playing for the final Test.