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Does Rahane's ODI repertoire warrant his selection?

Ajinkya Rahane has batted at all positions from Nos. 1 to 7, but his biggest weakness has been the inability to capitalise on starts Associated Press

The batting line-up India are likely to pick for the second ODI has an oddity about it - the top six is unlikely to change even though only two batsmen scored heavily in the first match in Pune. The line-up for the series is new, but there are a few old hands - Yuvraj Singh is making a comeback and MS Dhoni, the non-captain batsman, is chaperoning the middle order - and old problems - batsmen having to prove themselves after injuries.

Ajinkya Rahane, a reliable batsman in Tests, cannot walk up to the team management with solid arguments to get himself included in the XI, even though India's batting display rested on two extraordinary individual performances in Pune.

Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul scored in single digits, but it is highly unlikely either of them will be dropped after one low score, especially considering both are playing ODIs after months. Similar logic would apply for Yuvraj; picked to add experience in the middle order and then dropped after one failure? Unlikely. Dhoni's place is unquestionable as wicketkeeper and a senior, and Kedar Jadhav will bat at No. 6.

Where does Rahane fit now?

Rahane has had an odd ODI career. In 2015, he was unable to find a place in the ODI XI in Bangladesh, but a week later he was named the ODI and T20 captain for the Zimbabwe tour.

Just before that, Dhoni had openly explained how Rahane had to be more versatile because he struggled to rotate the strike in the middle overs on slower tracks. That only meant Rahane had to vie for an opener's spot, as Anil Kumble said before the series, to play more against pace when the ball was harder. In the recent ODIs against New Zealand, he was dismissed all five times by quick bowlers.

Rahane's problems don't limit themselves only to batting positions or slower pitches, though. Irrespective of where he bats, he has been unable to capitalise on starts. Since September 2011, when Rahane made his debut, he has scored quicker than just three other Indian batsmen - Ambati Rayudu, KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma - when facing his first 50 balls and batting in the top four. While batsmen like Virat Kohli, Rohit and Rayudu accelerate after facing 50 balls, Rahane often loses his wicket or scores at under a run-a-ball.

He has batted at all positions from Nos. 1 to 7, depending on the team's needs, and has been praised by team-mates for his ethic and hard work. There must be something in his ODI career he could boast about for a place in the XI?

He cannot argue with his numbers - his average sits just under 33 after 72 ODIs and his strike rate is a tad under 79. He cannot argue with his recent form either - in the three Tests he played against England, he scored 0, 23, 26, 13 and 1. And in the five ODIs against New Zealand, he averaged 28.60 with one fifty from five matches.

Out of desperation, if Rahane walks up to the management for a middle-order spot, there is no place he can squeeze through. If there is any room at all, Manish Pandey already has half his body pressed in. Rahane's only argument can be that he scored more runs than Pandey in the ODIs against New Zealand. But doesn't Pandey deserve more chances after his unbeaten hundred while chasing in Sydney less than a year ago?

The only thing Rahane can present to the team management to push for his case is the scorecard of India's last ODI in Cuttack - he had scored his second ODI century, 111 off 108 balls against Sri Lanka, while opening with Dhawan.

There are the cases of the injured batsmen to consider too. What happens when Rohit and Rayudu are fit? In the coming months, Rayudu will prove his fitness with the IPL, and that tournament will be Rahane's only chance to excel as an opener and make the selectors notice him. If Rahane is unable to grab the opener's place even when Rohit is injured, will he go to England for the Champions Trophy at all if Rohit, Dhawan and Rahul all are fit? The next two ODIs will give an indication of where Rahane's long run stands, since he hasn't been picked for the subsequent three T20s.

If one of the regular batsmen is injured, though, ahead of the Champions Trophy, Rahane will probably hope his impressive ODI record in England - 350 runs at 39 with a strike rate of 87.50 - is looked up by the selectors.