Notwithstanding criticism for making Ajinkya Rahane warm benches, Indian skipper MS Dhoni today hinted that the talented batsman may not feature in the playing eleven for the first ODI against South Africa as he fits into the setup only in the 'top three' batting slots.
Dhoni, who had earlier criticised Rahane for not rotating the strike enough in limited overs, said that the Mumbai batsman should only bat at the top of the order and not at five or six. With top three -- Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli -- selecting themselves for the series opener at Green Park, it is unlikely that Rahane will fit the bill.
"I think four is the number for Rahane. Even four is quite low for him I would say," said Dhoni on the eve of the match. The captain himself has promoted himself to number four and is looking for someone who can perform the role of a finisher, like what he did best for number of years.
Talking more about Rahane, Dhoni said, "Opening fits him really well. Take the example of Rohit Sharma for that matter. In domestic cricket he bats lower but in international matches he opens for us. Our openers more often than not are who bat in the middle order in first class cricket.
"So it is tough for him as of now. If am looking for someone to bat five or six I don't think he is the person. His strength is top of the order. If given a chance, we will try to feature him in the top three, if not then we would find it tough to place him in the playing eleven."
Rahane interestingly was made captain of the second string Indian team that toured Zimbabwe after Dhoni dropped him from the eleven during the ODIs in Bangladesh.
Talking more about number six slot that he himself vacated, Dhoni said it is difficult to pick one for the role keeping in mind the performance of the T20 series that the hosts lost 0-2.
"If you are talking about that slot, you can't pick one depending on the T20 performance. You don't get to play the way you are supposed to play in an ODI. Even if they would have played, it would be difficult for us to pick one amongst the three for ODIS.
"If you also see the last few series, you always felt Rahane is somebody who should bat up the order. Batting down he will face more difficulty. He is more flamboyant, more free when he bats up the order with a bit of field restrictions," said the skipper while talking about the prospect of Rahane, Ambati Rayudu and Suresh Raina coming in at six.