London, Jun 10 (IANS): Australia great Ricky Ponting feels that Ajinkya Rahane, who made a remarkable return to red ball cricket with his gutsy knock during the ongoing ICC World Test Championship final, can grasp the opportunity to prolong his Test career for a couple more years.
Rahane ended a 17-month exile when he was recalled to India's XI for the one-off Test at The Oval on the back of an impressive domestic season and an excellent Indian Premier League campaign with the Chennai Super Kings that netted 326 runs. He was perhaps also fortuitous that injuries to fellow batters KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer during the lead-up ensured he was an automatic choice.
The stylish No.5 took his chance with both hands to top-score with 89 during India's first innings in London and Ponting thinks the 35-year-old showed enough to ensure he wins selection for upcoming series in the Caribbean against the West Indies and beyond.
"He has made the most of his opportunity and that is all you can do. I think there are two more Test matches in the West Indies after this before Rahul and Iyer are back, so he has got a real opportunity to prolong his Test career for another couple of years," Ponting told the ICC.
Rahane spent two years under the tutelage of Ponting with the Delhi Capitals earlier this decade and the former Australia captain admits he was immediately impressed by the attitude of the experienced right-hander.
"He is a lovely guy and a mild-mannered guy and someone who is one of the most disciplined cricketers I have ever worked with. He is always the first one at training and he is always the first one at the gym doing his recovery and rehab," Ponting said further.
"I am really happy to see him back out there and playing and when you see him play like that (against Australia) you just wonder why he hasn't been in this India team for the last couple of years. Isn't it amazing now in this modern game? He probably got back into this Indian Test team on the back of some performances in the IPL, so well played to him," he added.
With their upcoming matches against the West Indies a little more than a month away and the commencement of India's new World Test Championship campaign, Ponting thinks selectors will have a dilemma of sorts on their hands when deciding how to fit their plethora of batting stars into their XI.
While Rahul and Iyer are still recovering from their respective surgeries and with no certainty to return for the Caribbean trip, India also have youngster Ishan Kishan waiting in the wings eagerly awaiting his chance at Test level.
"I am lucky that I am not an India selector, because that is a very difficult decision to make. It might even come down to condition-based selection, but that is the case that is a really good sign for India," said Ponting.