Ajinkya Rahane has been showing that team management's decision to drop him from the playing XI in the recent past was a "mistake" and the Mumbai batsman has sealed his spot at the No. 4 spot in ODIs, according to batting great Sunil Gavaskar.
Rahane, who had been labelled as the third opener in the 50-over format, was slotted in the middle order for the first ODI of the ongoing six-match series in South Africa on Thursday, February 1 after captain Virat Kohli made a U-turn over his batting position on the eve of the match.
Notably, Rahane had warmed the benches during a three-match ODI series against Sri Lanka at home even as the team tried three different players (Dinesh Karthik, Shreyas Iyer and MS Dhoni) at the No. 4 spot without much success.
The crucial middle order spot is being seen as the only area concern in an otherwise settled Indian batting-order as the team eyes an all-round and balanced squad for the upcoming Cricket World Cup, which will be played in England next year.
However, much to the surprise of quite a few, Rahane, who was dropped for the first two Tests of the fiercely-fought three-match rubber in South Africa, walked in at No. 4 in Durban. The 29-year-old grabbed the opportunity with both hands as he was involved in a match-winning 189-run stand with Kohli.
Walking in at 67 for 2 during India's chase of 270, Rahane hit a brisk 79, including five boundaries and two sixes as the visitors gunned down the total with 27 balls to spare.
"I think [it was a] terrific innings. He [Rahane] built it up so well. He also showed he could play the big shots, hitting those sixes. He has been showing that it was a mistake that they didn't pick him for the first two Tests," Gavaskar said during a post-match analysis show on Sony Ten 1 television channel on Thursday.
He added: "They did not pick him in the ODI matches [against Sri Lanka last year], slotting him down as an opening batsman. Look, he bats in the middle-order in Tests, so he is used to batting the middle-order in the ODI matches.
"Yes, there was a feeling that he was not able to rotate the strike freely in the middle order. But over the years he has improved that, he is scoring at a very good clip.
"He is technically so good. On overseas pitches where there is a little bit of help for the quicker bowlers, he is able to stave off the good deliveries and wait for the bad deliveries.
"I think he has sealed his spot at No. 4. There shouldn't be too much discussion about No. 4 unless he is terribly out of form [again]. He has sealed for this series at least for this series."
The 79 in Durban was also his fourth consecutive ODI fifty. The right-hander hit four half-centuries on the trot in the five-match ODI series at home against Australia last year after opening the innings in the absence of Shikhar Dhawan.