“If India are to come back in the series and take the fight to England, they cannot expect Kohli to keep making all the runs for them. Someone needs to step up, preferably more than just someone”
Ajinkya Rahane’s batting average, which had climbed to 51.37 at the end of the series against New Zealand in late 2016, has plummeted to 42.17 in the last one and half years.
Over the last 6 Tests from the start of the 2017-18 season, he has an aggregate of 101 at an average of 10.10.
These are worrying numbers. He has struggled big time in the past few months, although the opposing sides have included Afghanistan and a rather lacklustre Sri Lanka.
The very act of scoring has been an uphill trudge, his strike rate during this period has been 37.13.
When his average had gone beyond 50, his rate of scoring had been a healthy 53.62. He had been an attractive batsman, someone who could score runs briskly while looking elegant.
It is just the memories of that exceptional hundred at Lord’s which make us want to believe that he is still the stalwart that he used to be, the man who can stand firm in England while wickets fall around him. That and the quiet demeanour and sober hairdo that many confuse with the temperament of a Test batsman. In reality, it has been a while since Rahane has batted with any amount of panache.
In his first 50 Test innings he had crossed half-century as many as 17 times. The frequency of substantial innings was, thus, more than one in three. He was consistent.
|Upto Nov 2016||29||2209||51.37||8||9|
|After Nov 2016||17||701||26.96||1||3|
Since then, in the last 28 knocks over a period of one and a half years, he has crossed 50 only 4 times. He makes substantial scores only once in 7 innings now. In multiple ways, he is less than half the batsman he once was.
After knocking on the doors of expected greatness, he has now dragged himself back to the border of mediocrity. The recent figures are plain harrowing.
There are other distressing signs as well. Once he had been the one exception in the notoriously ordinary Indian slip cordon. However, in the very first session of this phenomenally important Test series, he grassed a relatively easy offering from Keaton Jennings.
He is 30. Just a few months older than Virat Kohli. Generally, for major batsmen this age signals the purple patch in Test cricket. Especially batsmen of the subcontinent. In contrast, Rahane’s career has gone in reverse gear.
It is a pity. That famous hundred at Lord’s, 2014, in very demanding conditions, showed that he had the game to succeed here.
But after this one Test in England this season, if one looks at his figures in that country, one is forced to do a double take. His average currently is 28 in the land. It gives the impression that his reputation, as well as the confidence placed in him by press, public and peers, is based on that one innings, which has hidden his failures for too long.
The Indian top order is already riddled with problems. That Kohli stood alone like a colossus amidst the debris of destruction during the Edgbaston Test has been repeated often enough.
Murali Vijay has scored 135 runs at an average of 15 in the 6 overseas Tests he has played in the last couple of years. He has a highest of 46 in these matches. However, there is the conception that since he leaves balls outside the off-stump he will be successful in England. He did get a big hundred on the slowest and flattest of pitches at Trent Bridge last time, and followed it up with an excellent innings at Lord’s. But even he averages in his 30s in England. And at 34 he is not getting any younger, a thought that does not seem to register in general consciousness.
There is a huge public outcry protesting the axing of Cheteshwar Pujara, ignoring that his county stint has seen him eke out 172 miserable runs in 6 matches this season, at an average of 14, against bowling that can be, at best, termed passable. He is also someone who averages 22 in England and 27 in all Tests played in England, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. He is a pathetic traveller as a batsman.
And KL Rahul seems to be intent on playing the ball from the side and away from his body rather than getting behind the line.
Incredibly, Shikhar Dhawan and Hardik Pandya were the second highest scorers in the two innings at Edgbaston. Way behind Virat, but ahead of the others. Although their flashy haircuts, tattoos and earrings tend to create the impression that they are not suited for Test cricket. Cognitive illusions such as this abound in cricket. It would be a pity if Dhawan and Pandya are made scapegoats in the post-defeat witch-hunt simply because of deluded perception.
But it will be an even greater tragedy, and incredible misfortune for Indian cricket, if Ajinkya Rahane does not get his act together and perform as we all know he is capable of.
If India are to come back in the series and take the fight to England, they cannot expect Kohli to keep making all the runs for them. Someone needs to step up, preferably more than just someone. And it will be immensely beneficial for India’s chances and also the annals of Indian batsmanship if Ajinkya Rahane becomes one of the men in the batting line-up to stand up and be counted.