From ruling the domestic circuit to bashing bowlers on overseas pitches, and being a replacement player in ODIs, Ajinkya Rahane has had a lot to offer.
Rahane easily outshined his competitors in the domestic circuit. Amassing 1089 runs in the 2008-09 edition of Ranji Trophy he gained attention of the selectors, but the mighty Indian batting order consisting of Tendulkar, Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Dravid, etc kept him in the domestic circuit for a while longer.
Hammering two tons in the Emerging Players Tournament in Australia showcased Rahane’s techniques as a batsman. The result was his inclusion in the limited-overs squad against England in 2011. Gradually, he cemented his spot as the opener in white-ball cricket, but this was short-lived because of the emergence of the Shikhar Dhawan-Rohit Sharma pair. Rahane found solace at No 4, only to be appraised after every series.
Rahane debuted in the Tests in 2013 Border Gavaskar trophy. His early career in the longest format was not so different from his early ODI and T20 career. He did manage to become one of the two best overseas Test players in the team (the other being Murali Vijay), but faced a fall in form and rose up the charts once again.
The kid who practiced on mats in Dombivali, Mumbai, ruled international pitches. He’s scored a ton in all Test-playing nations, barring South Africa and Bangladesh. On 8th October 2016, he scored his Test career-high of 188 against New Zealand, along with skipper Virat Kohli. Though, he was as disappointing on home pitches as he was entertaining on overseas pitches. Ajinkya Rahane achieved his career best test batsmen’s ranking of No. 8 in August 2016.
No player ever, except the great Don had a career without a bad patch. In Rahane’s case, the years 2017-2018 were worst in his career. The overseas expert failed to stick to his name on the British pitches. He hit notable scores occasionally like the 81 against England in 2018. His career graph hit the lowest point when he failed to score against the youngsters in Deodhar Trophy (except his 144 in the last match) and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (where his total score was only 58 in 6 innings) in the 2018-19 editions. He took alarmingly long number of innings between two 50 run knocks.
Amidst these ups and down in Test cricket, his performance at the shorter format had a consistent slope. He played a vital part in the 2015 World Cup and gradually stuck to the bench by the time Champions Trophy of 2017 had arrived. Gradually, he failed to make it to the 15 men squad as well. Ajinkya Rahane was highly confident of being a part of the 2019 World Cup squad, but was ignored for the biggest tournament as other batsmen had strikingly better scores. Using this opportunity, he had his first ever County stint with Hampshire in 2019 and went on to be one of the few Indians to hammer a ton in county. His experience with Hampshire cannot be ruled out as a reason for his comeback later on.
Rahane’s test cricket form seemed to have returned post World Cup 2019 with the West Indies tour. The first test match proved to be noteworthy for Rahane where he stood like a wall and single-handedly stopped the streak of wickets. He had scored 81 in the first innings (when K.L Rahul, Mayank Agarwal, Pujara and Kohli jointly made mere 60 runs) and a calm knock of 102 in the second innings. Rahane was made the Man of the match in the first test (View Scorecard). In the second test match once again he hammered an unbeaten 64 thus stopping the fall of wickets along with successfully chasing the target. Rahane carried this form in the South Africa series scoring a 50 and 100 in 2nd and 3rd test respectively. His ton in the 3rd test once again demanded Rahane to stand like a wall and bring the team back into a favourable position stitching a partnership with Rohit Sharma worth 267 runs (View Scorecard). India won the series 3-0 whitewashing the Proteas at home. It seems as if this is the prime period of Rahane’s career where he became one of the leading run scorers of the World Test Championship.
The national team may ignore this Mumbai lad, but he is fortunately consistent in the IPL. Rahane was spotted by Shane Watson for his 100(84) score followed by various match winning scores for Rajasthan Royals. Wearing the mantle of a captain for Rajasthan Royals on his idol Rahul Dravid’s suggestion he cemented his spot for his franchise. He got a chance to play alongside MS Dhoni during his stints with the Pune franchise during the ban imposed on CSK and RR. Rahane was the leading run scorer for his team in the years 2012 (For RR) and 2016 (For RPS). He returned to the Royals and captained the team after Steve Smith was banned for a brief period post the sandpaper gate. Strike rate is the only reason for his failure in shorter formats, and it continues to haunt him in the IPL as well. In the 2019 edition, his ton went in vain as the team scored runs at a low rate.
He scalps 50+ scores in almost every match, but along with alternate low scoring innings. Rahane’s class and temperament can never be doubted, but his tendency to get out trying something extravaganza has been spotted by many critics. His occasional poor scores have earned him a status of inconsistent player. Inconsistencies are the major things consistent with Rahane. He may get out on a negligible score or may be the match saver for the team, there is nothing in between these two stages. It feels as if he is on the peak of his career and then suddenly his graph sinks too low. But one can not rule out the fact that after every bad patch, he has rose like a warrior and regained what he had lost. If the ups and downs in his career are converted in a graph, it would look like a couple of loops. He shot to fame after his debut, was benched repeatedly, became strong opener, lost his T20 spot, stabled at no.4 in ODI, became Test team’s most valuable middle order batsman, failed to make it to the ODI squad, struggled in domestic matches and once again rose in the ranks with latest knocks in test matches. As of now, he averages 43.21in the longest format and hopes to increase the same with the latest match defining knocks. Irrespective of this inconsistent status, Rahane remais to be one of the most important part of the team in test cricket.
One may wonder if Rahane would ever wear the blues again as his hopes of returning to the squad diminish over the period of time. In recent times, he has retained his honour of Mr. Dependable not only with the bat but also in the slip cordon as rarely the red cherry has ever passed Rahane’s defence. His path in the future may be uncertain but even the critics and legends have acknowledged his fighting spirit and cricketing class. Ajinkya Rahane’s teammates, the management, fans- everyone expects him to perform with his superb techniques against the short balls, abilities to play the ball late and splitting the field in two halves to send the ball across the boundary line. Can Rahane improve his strike rate? Can he be more consistent with the bat? Can he expect a call in the limited over team? The future has the answers hidden within it.
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