There will be no hurried calls taken on Ajinkya Rahane's future based on external pressure, India's captain Virat Kohli said after India sealed their 14th consecutive Test series win at home. It was another dominant performance by India, but the lean patch for two of their senior batters, Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara, remains a concern, especially at a time when new batters are coming in and putting performances that make it hard to drop them.
Rahane now averages 24.39 over his last 16 Tests, including one century in the Boxing Day Test nearly a year ago. With scores of 35 and 4 in the last Test, his career average has now dipped below 40. At home he averages 35.73, which has come down to 30.08 over the last five years.
Shreyas Iyer, who played in Kanpur in Kohli's absence, scored a hundred and a fifty on debut. There was talk Mayank Agarwal might be made to step aside when Kohli came back for Mumbai, but Rahane's hamstring injury made that decision easy. Agarwal then responded with a century and a fifty of his own on a difficult pitch. Coach Rahul Dravid called the situation a happy headache to have, but also said a big part of his challenge would be to help pick the best XI, especially in away Tests, which could involve "difficult decisions" along the way.
Kohli, known to be ruthless and trigger-happy in the first half of his Test captaincy, has put a premium on the past performances of Rahane and Pujara, and said he would continue to do so.
"I can't judge Ajnkya's form," Kohli said. "Nobody can judge anybody's form, for that matter. Because only an individual knows what part of his game he has to work on. But, as I have said in the past, it is important to back those players who have made impact performances in difficult situations and important Test matches in the past. We don't entertain this kind of atmosphere in the team that a player starts worrying about 'what next' the moment he is under a little bit of pressure.
"Yes, we can't expect this kind of balance from those on the outside where those who are singing praises will be asking for a player's head in two months. We don't react that way ever nor will we do it in the future because we know how much effort and hard work goes in for any person to get into a positive mental space, and we will support it. Be it Ajinkya or whoever. We will never take decisions based on the outside atmosphere."
Kohli did, however, say important decisions could be made after discussions with Dravid and the selectors. "Those are discussions we are going to have now with the selectors," he said. "It is a good headache to have but you always want clarity in these things. And understand that it is always great to know exactly what you want to do before you head into a series like South Africa. Those things are very important to address, and we are going to have discussions straight away when we get to the hotel now."
One of the things India were understood to be considering was dropping Shubman Gill down to the middle order to better utilise his full potential, but they couldn't try that as KL Rahul didn't recover from his injury in time for the New Zealand Tests. Now Iyer has made the middle-order an even more crowded place.
Will they now try the switch in South Africa?
"That's a discussion that needs to take place: who we think are specialists in certain positions," Kohli said. "These are not things I can sit here and answer in a press conference. You need discussions on these things, you need to analyse what is best for the team and the individuals as well, and come to a common conclusion.
"More often than not, issues are discussed, and we come to a collective decision, which feels the most balanced. That's the same process we are going to follow moving forward as well. It is upon lengthy discussions where everyone puts in their ideas."