Ajinkya Rahane needs to throw the last dice in crucial Test cricket phase
The 28-year old has been trying to nail down a place in the Test squad as the England tour beckons.
Updated - Jun 18, 2018 9:48 am
India may have decimated Afghanistan within two days in the recently concluded one-off Test, but Ajinkya Rahane’s form has been a topic of discussion. Another paltry score by the stand-in Indian skipper brings forward questions on the mindset of the player short on confidence.
In five overall Tests now, Rahane hasn’t managed to get a single fifty. Moreover the issues at home continues to loom large for the player, whose lapse of concentration helped Rashid Khan get the better out of him in another lacklustre knock.
With KL Rahul taking his chance in a positive manner, the near future for Rahane doesn’t look assured. Here is a player battling issues with his form and time could be running out sooner than later. The England series presents Rahane with a crucial opportunity to show why he is better suited overseas. Another failure in August, could spell an exit from the side.
There is plenty at stake for not only Rahane, but also the management and Rahul, who is waiting on the wings. The Indian selectors off late have followed the perform or perish mantra. Rohit Sharma has seen that in the longer format. Rahane now is in a similar territory and let’s have a look at the scenario the player is in.
Rahane’s show with the bat off late
The struggle for Rahane at home conditions has been a telling story. A failure against Sri Lanka in November 2017, saw him score just 17 runs in three Tests. The struggles against spin was there to be seen. Against Afghanistan too, a 40-ball 10 looked laboured, where for most parts the player looked unsure of himself.
27 runs in four Tests at home in recent times signals that Rahane will need to better himself considerably. India’s next Test series at home is against the West Indies in October. The talented right-handed batsman showed his steel in the 2nd innings against the Proteas with a valuable 48 runs earlier this year. That was the only innings where we witnessed the usual Rahane, looking to settle down against a top quality bowling attack.
Besides that innings, it has been a string of low scores and based on his experience, the selectors kept picking him though. But for how long? The Mumbaikar will know that Rahul could be pushing him all the way and there will be immense pressure on Rahane, given he has already lost his place in limited-over cricket for India.
Performances in India and overseas
In India, the middle-order batsman has played 20 Tests, scoring 1019 runs at an average of 32.87. When one brings the overseas performances into account, Rahane has a produced a better show outside Asia. He has 1369 runs in 18 Test matches which includes four centuries. Given, that India’s next big tours are overseas, Rahane will definitely be selected.
India play five Tests against England, which is followed by another four-Test series against Australia in 2018-19. A lot depends on how the management steps up and makes a decision on whether to go ahead with the Indian Test vice-captain over KL Rahul. Perhaps for the initial Test against England, that could be the way.
Rahane is known to be patient and is more suited to the conditions outside the sub-continent. With the likes of James Anderson and Co. steaming in swinging conditions, the 2014 series will aid Rahane in knowing what to expect. The challenge will be the Tests at the Oval and Manchester, where England are at their best mainly.
Rahane cannot just bask on previous glory and the moment is now. It’s more of a fresh start for the player.
Will KL Rahul stake a claim?
Against South Africa earlier this year, Rohit Sharma was preferred ahead of Rahane, before the latter made a return in the third and final Test. Now with Sharma out of reckoning once again, Rahane has to battle it out with Rahul. The defiant 54-run knock against the Afghans saw the in-form batsman play positively, as he applied himself well and stuck to his task to lay India’s foundation.
One wonders how does the Indian management sees Rahul in the batting scenario? He is definitely the 3rd choice when it comes to opening the batting behind Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay.
But where does Rahul come in as a middle-order batsman? Will he come in the crucial position at number five? That’s the slot available if Rahane is dropped in favour of him. The Bengaluru boy has mainly played as an opener and against Afghanistan came in at number three ahead of Cheteshwar Pujara. One may think Rahane fills in as the better option given his experience abroad.