Asia Cup 2016: Hardik Pandya's rise leaves no room for Ajinkya Rahane in MS Dhoni's playing XI
While cricket voices across the world continue to express their apprehensions regarding the Indian Premier League, there is no denying the fact that the lucrative tournament has not only provided financial security to cricketers from various countries, but it has also helped cricket playing nations identify talents, which have gone on to do well for their national teams after getting success in the IPL.
Another advantage of the league is that junior cricketers, who would otherwise be playing domestic cricket for years and years, get the huge opportunity to share and learn from stalwarts of the game, and those who are determined to make an impact, cash in on the opportunity to excel on the big stage.
Hardik Pandya is one fine example of what mentoring can do to talented cricketers. Not many had even heard his name before the last IPL.
But under Ricky Ponting's watchful eyes, the allrounder honed his skills and the Australian legend's company and words transformed him into a matchwinner for Mumbai Indians.
Again and again, Pandya batted lower down the order and singlehandedly won matches for his team under precarious circumstances.
It were his cameos in the league which grabbed attention of experts, selectors and after just one tournament, Pandya became a household name.
Not that he wasn't any good a cricketer ahead of the tournament, but the time spent with Punter proved to be the turning point of his career and the confidence he derived was something which made him do well even in domestic tournaments.
While Pandya's rise is great news for Indian cricket, which lacked a genuine allrounder for quite some time, it's bad news for Ajinkya Rahane, India's prolific runscorer in all formats.
When Virat Kohli returns to the Indian team after a short break from international cricket for Asia Cup 2016, Rahane will have to make way for the Delhi batsman as there is no other spot where he fits in.
Personally, I would want Rahane to open the innings with Rohit Sharma, but Shikhar Dhawan found his form at the right time and the selectors won't want to break the rhythm of the left-right combination.
The duo has got India to several good starts since the beginning of this year and there is no reason why selectors would want to experiment. Also, considering that the two major events ahead will be played on subcontinental tracks, Dhawan's place is absolutely safe.
With Kohli at three, followed by Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja and Pandya himself, India actually don't have a place for Rahane.
Pandya has an edge over Rahane since he has the reputation of hitting the ball from the word go.
There is no doubt that Rahane is a much better batsman than Pandya, but since he needs a few balls to settle down and also since Pandya gives Dhoni more bowling options, the skipper would definitely want to stick with the allrounder in the playing XI.
Unless one of the batsmen get injured, there's no way through which Rahane can feature in India's Asia Cup and ICC World Twenty20 squads.
Pandya's success story, is another testing phase for Rahane.