Ajinkya Rahane, India, Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, day one
File photo of Ajinkya RahaneReuters

Pace great Allan Donald has said India had taken a "harsh" decision by dropping vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane from the playing XI for the first Test of the ongoing three-match series in Cape Town.

Rahane has a good head on his shoulders and is capable of "steadying the ship", according to the 51-year-old pace gun, who was fondly called the "White Lightning" in his cricketing heyday.

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The Mumbai batsman was expected to be part of the playing XI but the team management's decision to bench the seasoned campaigner left quite a few surprised. Notably, Rahane was the third-highest run-scorer last time India toured the Rainbow Nation, having scored 209 runs from two matches.

In Cape Town, India missed Rahane's experience in the middle-order as the visiting batsmen meekly surrendered without being able to cope with the pace and bounce the Newlands track offered.

Virat Kohli's side, who had a good chance of going 1-0 up after bowling out South Africa for just 130 in the second innings, eventually ended up falling short of a 209-run target by 72 runs.

"I really think it's harsh to keep Rahane out. The last time he was here he had a great tour. I think for me, Rahane is the man who can steady the ship. He is a rock-solid guy and a good head on his shoulders," Donald was quoted by the Hindustan Times as saying.

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He added: "South Africans see Rahane sitting on the bench and carrying drinks and they would say 'wow'. They would rather have that, you know. He's an absolutely world-class player."

India prefered Rohit Sharma at the number five spot over Rahane, but the decision backfired as the former batsman scored only 21 runs across two innings in Cape Town.

Captain Kohli, however, said after the defeat that his decision to drop Rahane from the team was influenced by the latter's "current form".

While Rahane scored just 17 runs from three Tests in the recently-concluded series against Sri Lanka, Rohit scored a Test ton and two half-centuries before hitting his third ODI double ton against the islanders.

'Dhawan a hard man to bowl to'

Shikhar Dhawan
Dhawan failed to get going in both the innings of the Cape Town TestGIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Donald also opined against dropping Dhawan for the second Test despite his poor performance in the first Test. The left-hander walked back to the pavilion after playing a rash shot in the first innings, and fell to a short ball during India's chase of 209.

With KL Rahul waiting in the wings, there is tremendous pressure on Dhawan. However, with Kohli speaking in favour of the right-left combination at the top, the Delhi batsman might retain his place for the Centurion Test.

"I consider Shikhar Dhawan to be a really aggressive player. If they make that change, South Africa will believe 'right, that's good for us'," Donald said.

"Dhawan is a world-class player. He is a hard man to bowl to because he makes you change the length because he is so attacking."