Ajinkya Rahane and a poor run of form don’t seem to go well together in the same sentence. It’s one of those crude language errors that makes for an impoverished reading.
So far, in nearly 7 years of cricket, Rahane’s batting seems to echo a book where the bookmark is permanently placed on the page that reads focus and grit.
But just like too many gaps in a sentence don’t make for a great reading, too many gaps in scoring well do not reflect well in Rahane’s scores.
But that’s the Ajinkya Rahane-story in recent times
When Rahul Dravid moved on from the sport, there were hopes in Rahane and Pujara. While the latter has enjoyed a fancy home season, scoring runs all around the country, scoring dollops of runs throughout the 2016-17 season, what has Rahane been up to that his name does not feature in the T20, ODI squad for England?
Arguably, among the finest timers of the cricket ball and above all, a batsman renowned for solid technique, there’s a clear dearth of runs in the bag.
The same Ajinkya Rahane, who collected a whopping 653 Test runs from 10 Tests, including 2 hundreds at a sterling 54 in 2016, has seemingly struggled to put bat to ball in the recent times.
In 2017, his average would take a beating, the runs would reduce to 554, nearly a 100 lesser than the previous year, albeit with an extra Test appearance.
Above all, the mild-mannered bat would collect a solitary Test hundred all season.
Is that the high-class Rahane standard that he’s maintained so far: 9 Test hundreds and 12 fifties from only 44 Tests.
Then, the worst run of form would be evidenced in 2018
As on date, Rahane’s featured in a solitary Test in South Africa this year, from which he has gathered 48 runs. While on first thoughts, that suggests that a lot of Test cricket is yet to happen, Rahane hasn’t really impressed in the limited formats either.
From 6 ODI games this year, Ajinkya Rahane, who moves fans to adulation courtesy that glorious square cut and some strong bottom-handed strokes has managed only 140 runs.
Is that really Rahane?
Or could it be that an excessive cricket season might have taken a toll?
Whatever it is, as you examine the otherwise solid career of a batsman that’s eschewed of any kind of shenanigans, you care to side with him for sentimental reasons. And perhaps, argue for a case in T20 cricket.
But, then again, Rahane’s recent T20 performances don’t seem to reflect his humungous talent.
An un-royal IPL season with Rajasthan
For starters, was Rahane really the Royal captain of a waning Rajasthan this IPL, who somehow stumbled their way toward the playoffs?
For a batsman who struck a solitary T20 fifty in 2018 season, as opposed to 6 in 2016 season and 4 in 2015, Rahane’s 370 runs from 15 innings were vapid enough to compete for a competition rewarding IPL’s most yawn-inducing performances.
The keenness to bisect the fielders, the familiar touch of class and the assault rendered from the top order during Dravid’s tutelage in past editions were missing. Was Rahane even being himself when at the failure to beat Kolkata Knight Riders in the playoffs, he criticised other batsmen but didn’t take the blame for his poor run?
In a format where a quickfire 20s and a stylish 30 can often take the game away from the opposition, it might make for a substantive discussion to address whether there was a sense in Rahane opening the innings?
Can some inspiration up the ane for the thinking cricketer?
There’s little doubt about Rahane’s current standing as a Test specialist, despite lesser-experienced names in the five-day contest appearing to challenge that position, such as Pandya and Rohit (talents in their own right).
But for Rahane to bolster his career and return to big scoring ways, he might want to hit the Ranji turf hard again. When the going gets tough, it’s not just that the tough get going. They get going in the domestic leagues again.
That’s something that the likes of Pujara and Ashwin have done to good effect recently, and something that the likes of a Smith and Warner will be doing in their key absences from the international stage.
For starters, Rahane, the captain in the one-off Test versus Afghanistan needs to dissect the spin-powered attack with surgical precision. True, Rashid Khan is the king of spin, but Rahane is an emperor who rules through sheer power of focus.
We know what he can do when he adjusts beautifully from the front foot to the back-foot in yearning for scoring boundaries, particularly, square of the region.
The gentle nudges to the covers and the fiery pulls, at times on the front foot, Rahane might have to be the master of his own destiny. A great instance of him toying with bowlers that shall serve some inspiration would be to revisit his 188 against New Zeland.
There are, but a few talents in the sport today who possess the power to lift the ‘lower order’.
Rahane is that weapon of choice.
For someone who’s collected nearly 800 more runs playing in overseas conditions than his aggregate on home soil, India needs its explorer to conquer unfriendly international waters as much as the thinking navigator needs an outfit to hold on to.