There is no doubt regarding Ajinkya Rahane’s batting abilities against the red ball, especially overseas. In fact, he is India’s most consistent Test batsman overseas and has been a pillar of strength in taxing conditions. However, the strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde springs to mind, the moment Rahane takes the guard at home wearing whites.
Rahane has been oozing with confidence in away Tests and his average of 53.44 is a testament to it. Also, six of his nine Test hundreds have come on alien soil. His home record has been in stark contrast, with an average of 33.63, which is still decent, Rahane has failed to replicate similar magic though.
Rahane loves batting against menacing pace and swing, his fighting hundred on a green Lord’s wicket is a testament to it and there are many more. He has been a good player of seam rather than spin.
In the recently concluded Test series against a hapless Sri Lanka, Rahane had a terrible time at the crease. He looked bereft of oomph, scoring just 17 runs in five innings. He looked vulnerable and kept making mistakes.
Things do fall apart when a batsman is out of form and this just was a demonstration of it. But, should this raise a concern for India ahead of the South African tour? Well, not really. Rahane has done enough to prove his credentials on foreign soil and deserves a go in conditions where he is more comfortable with.
Also, Rahane has a staggering record in South Africa, averaging 69.66 in four innings. Of course, who could forget that valiant 96 in what happens to be his latest Test outing in South Africa! This should only push him better.
Rahane is a perfect blend of brute force and finesse. Overseas, with the bat, he could smash and is equally proficient in blocking deliveries for hours, sessions and days. Rahane banks on sound technique and timing, he has most of the strokes from the cricket textbook and inspires confidence with the bat. There is a feeling of reassurance when Rahane is around.
Former Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly also opined that Rahane’s poor form ahead of the South African tour is not a concern. “No, I don’t think Ajinkya Rahane’s form is a concern as he is a quality player. Virat Kohli, Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara and Murali Vijay have all been to South Africa. The best thing is that they are going back to South Africa as better players,” Ganguly told PTI during a Ranji Trophy encounter.
Despite a poor run at home, Rahane should be in the scheme of things for India in South Africa. His presence in the middle will only add solidity and India should stick with him for the middle-order berth. Most importantly, he has the technique to succeed in South Africa. This tour can be an ideal platform for elegant Rahane to further his credentials in the longest format and prove he one of the bests in the business. Rahane has a lot to offer, his potential is limitless and needs to forget what happened back home and restart.
“For a cricketer, whatever is history now. He is going to South Africa and he should see that in his last tour of South Africa, he averaged more than 65.” Pravin Amre was quoted by PTI.
“I think team India, especially the selectors have a lot of faith in him that is the reason he (Rahane) is the vice-captain. That responsibility is there and he is aware of that. I am sure in the coming one month, whatever people believe in him, he will deliver to that,” Amre added.
With Rohit Sharma being in the form of his life, and scoring runs at will, the race is only getting tougher. This has been the best he has ever batted and looked in complete control. This also presses his case for the middle-order slot with a misfiring Rahane, on the other hand.
Rohit batted well in two games against Sri Lanka, but this should certainly not jeopardise Rahane’s slot. Rohit deserves a chance but definitely not at the expense of Rahane. Rohit’s inclusion should only depend on what strategy India opt to go with – five or four bowlers. Although it is very unlikely that Rahane will be overlooked, but the possibility is always there. With him being the vice-captain, the signs are clear that the side have immense faith in his abilities and will be given a longer run, but Rahane does need to step up.
Every batsman goes through a rough patch, and this certainly has been Rahane’s torrid phase. But what will make a difference is how quickly he can forget it and bounce back. He is pure class, and one can expect him to overcome the mental barrier in South Africa. For India to win the battle, it is pivotal for Rahane to rediscover his lost mojo.