Ricky Ponting has praised India’s stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane for his superlative effort leading the team against Australia in the second Test against in Melbourne. Not only was Rahane brilliant with his field placings and bowling changes on the first day, he took it a step forward by playing a captain’s knock on Sunday, scoring the 12th century of his Test career and shepherding India’s strong response to Australia’s 195.
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Rahane remained unbeaten on 104 as India finished Day 2 of the Boxing Day Test well placed at 277/5 and with a lead of 82 runs. Ponting explained it would have taken a great deal of effort from Rahane to pick the team back up after the Adelaide debacle and how in the process, he’s stood up defiantly in the absence of Virat Kohli, who has returned home due to paternity leave.
“I think he’s done a great job to pick up the pieces from Adelaide with this team, lead really well in the field yesterday and you can see he’s playing like a captain now as well. He wants to play that captain’s knock; he wants to get a hundred in Virat’s absence and do the best thing he can to try and drag his country and his team back into this series,” Ponting told cricket.com.au.
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Ponting weighed in on the comparison between Kohli’s and Rahane’s leadership skills. Under Kohli, India have won 14 Test series out of 20, including the team’s famous 2-1 win Down Under two years ago. Rahane on the other hand has a 100 percent win ratio as India’s Test captain prior to the ongoing MCG Test.
Although Kohli has a decent Test average of over 60 as captain, there are clamours that he is better off when not leading the side, but if that is to ever happen, Ponting feels it won’t be a usual thing. As far as Rahane’s captaincy goes, Ponting feels the batsman has ticked all the boxes.
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“Virat will be captain of India as long as he wants to, but if he thinks standing down is going to make him an even better player, then that’s a scary thing for world cricket,” Ponting said.
“I’m not doubting Kohli’s captaincy skills or credentials at all, I’m just saying it’s going to take something special to pick up the pieces and Rahane’s been able to do that so far. I don’t think there’ll be pressure from anywhere else for Kohli to do that but let’s wait and see.”
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Rahane hit 12 boundaries in his 200-ball innings but led a rather charmed life. He was lucky on more than one occasion as he edged a ball between the wicketkeeper and second slip on 57, had a catch dropped by Steve Smith when on 73 and later by Travis Head off what turned out to be the final ball of the day. Yet, there was a sense of assurance in Rahane’s batting, one which impressed Ponting a lot.
“He’s almost played a (Cheteshwar) Pujara-like innings. No thrills, he’s hit very few boundaries but he’s just continually backing his defence and trying to wear the Australian bowlers down,” Ponting said.
“I think the Australians haven’t made him cover drive enough. I think they’ve been a little bit short and they’ve plugged that cover region. That nick that we saw that went between Paine and Smith, I think that could have been covered with another slip in place and leave the cover area open.”