Being vice-captain of Team India, one has to admit that the pressure on Ajinkya Rahane is indeed enormous. The elegant stroke maker has often being touted by pundits as someone oozing tremendous class and grace. However, for all his class, the Mumbai lad has endured a patch of complete self-doubt in the last 18 months. He went through yet another failure at Edgbaston Birmingham on the second day of the first Test against England.
With Shikhar Dhawan nicking one off Sam Curran to the slip cordon, in walked Rahane, with great hopes. The pressure was on India, as the visitors lost three wickets in no time after a solid start by the openers.
With skipper Virat Kohli for a company at the other end, Rahane looked comfortable and at the start of his innings, even more, comfortable than the skipper himself.
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However, just as he looked set to convert his start into at least a half century, a nothing shot off his Indian Premier League (IPL) teammate Ben Stokes led to his downfall.
The last 18 months portray an extremely underwhelming picture of the classy Rahane. An overall Test career average of 42.76 seems decent, if not too fancy for Rahane.
Nevertheless, that has come down to the level it is, primarily due to his form since 1st January 2017.
In the mentioned period, Rahane has played a total of 14 matches (22 innings) and scored just 636 runs, at a repentant average of 31.80. Across those 22 innings, Rahane has managed to score in excess on just four occasions, with one of those four being converted to three figures.
The sole ton come against Sri Lanka at Colombo and apart from that, things look quite dark for this ever talented lad. He has played some crucial knocks in between as well, which deserve their credit. His half-century at Bangalore in the second innings, and eventual stand with Cheteshwar Pujara turned the series on its head.
Why is Ajinkya Rahane so Important. Would he answer England for India?
A massive reason for India’s reliance on Rahane is his batting position. Batting at number five, Rahane often has to blunt the second new ball, and play according to the situation. Thereby, flexibility is a key factor. Rahane serves as a vital cog in this Indian set up.
His predecessor VVS Laxman held similar traits like him, classy, yet aggressive. However, the one aspect which Rahane lacks is Laxman’s consistency and ability to time and again do well.
Having said that, Rahane being rated so highly is also an indication of the expectations. He is someone, who can easily lead India’s charge overseas, as he has done on the previous round of tours. Thereby, his string of low scores needs to change and change at the soonest for the team.
Rahane is an absolute champion batsman, and writing him off will be a poor move.
For India to do well in England across a series lasting five Tests, Rahane needs to strike form at the earliest. If he does that, India could well be in a great position.