India bring back Ajinkya Rahane for WTC final against Australia

The veteran middle-order batter returns to the Test squad after being dropped for a year in the aftermath of India's series loss in South Africa. 
Ajinkya Rahane?width=963&height=541&resizemode=4

With the number of middle-order options unavailable, India have been compelled to bring back Ajinkya Rahane to their Test squad picked on Tuesday (April 25) for the final of the World Test Championship (WTC) 2021-23 against Australia in June. 

Rahane returns to the side after more than a year since being dropped in the aftermath of India's disappointing 2-1 series loss in South Africa following a sustained strife with the bat. 

The elegant right-hander had faced a major blip in the middle despite enjoying firm backing from the team management and selectors, averaging a measly 24.08 from his previous 19 Tests since the beginning of the pandemic years before his ultimate ouster from the side. 

However, with first-choice middle-order options Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer sidelined ahead of the Test championship final, India have been forced to put a pause on their transition and go back to the tried and tested mettle of Rahane, who played a number of impactful knocks for the side even when his overall game stood in the mud. 

It would've only helped the player's case that with Covid realms compromising the quality of the Ranji Trophy and no 'A' tours around to truly filter domestic performers, the selectors had no real option to spread the net wider in terms of choices and introduce a young talent at the marquee WTC final.

Rahane returns for the WTC clash against Australia 

That, Ajinkya Rahane relished his first-class comeback with Mumbai last season may have also bolstered his claims of a comeback. The 34-year-old made 634 runs in his seven games and 11 innings of the 2022-23 Ranji season at an average of 57.63 with two hundreds next to his name. 

The right-hander has backed his Ranji exploits with some strong displays for Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the ongoing edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL). 

But a sense of anticipation around Rahane's comeback had been prevalent ever since it got confirmed that Pant and Iyer are bound to miss the flight to England in June, especially with KL Rahul also not inspiring much confidence in the selectors and the management's mind for a potential induction in the middle-order. 

The struggling opener, who was dropped from the top order after two Tests of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy against the Aussies, has retained his spot, however, as an informal cover in case of injuries with India's first XI looking more or less set for Australian bout in wake of Rahane's comeback. 

Also retaining his spot in the side is stand-in wicketkeeper-batter KS Bharat, who looked impressive only in bits and parts of the Test series at home in Pant's absence but has been given more time to transition to the top-level game, and also Saurashtra pacer Jaydev Unadkat after warming the bench in his comeback assignment. 

The rest of the squad has no surprises on offer. There were murmurs of Ishant Sharma, too, making a comeback, but the decision-makers haven't gone backwards on that front despite ace speedster Jasprit Bumrah's injury, giving Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Shami and Shardul Thakur the chance to make an impact. 

To enable the five-bowler combination, India have their famed troika of spinners Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel. 

The much-anticipated final will be played at The Oval from June 7 to 11, with a reserve day allocated on 12th June.  

India WTC final squad: Rohit Sharma (Captain), Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, K L Rahul, KS Bharat (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Shardul Thakur, Mohd. Shami, Mohd. Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Jaydev Unadkat