SA vs IND: Ajinkya Rahane repeatedly reminds himself to 'watch the ball' in Centurion

SA vs IND: Ajinkya Rahane repeatedly reminds himself to ‘watch the ball’ in Centurion

Rahane has been woefully short on runs in 2021, averaging below 20 in 12 Tests.

Ajinkya Rahane
Ajinkya Rahane. (Photo Source: Twitter)

India’s No. 5 batter Ajinkya Rahane’s desperation to succeed was manifest in the Boxing Day Test in Centurion against South Africa, when he was caught repeatedly reminding himself to “watch the ball” after he walked in to bat following the dismissal of Virat Kohli in the final session of the first day’s play.

Rahane has been far from his best in 2021, averaging a poor 19.57 in 21 innings, while his last triple-digit score came back in December 2020 against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), the venue of the second Border-Gavaskar Trophy Test.

He received a setback not too long ago when the BCCI and senior men’s team selectors decided to hand India’s Test vice-captaincy to Rohit Sharma. Rahane has been on shaky ground for long now, with consistent questions on his place in the team, not least because of the unending depth of the Indian team, which has plenty of able players waiting on the sidelines.

It was not entirely surprising to see him consciously reminding himself to keep an eye on the ball against South Africa, as another below-par series could well materialise in his ouster from India’s red-ball set-up.

Notably, in Centurion, India decided to keep both Shreyas Iyer and Hanuma Vihari out of the XI. Iyer made his case strong as early as his debut Test, with scores 105 and 65 against New Zealand in Mumbai, but could not make the cut, whereas Vihari, who was unarguably more acclimatised than any of the other Indian batters – he scored 25, 54, 72 not out, 63 and 13 not out in the three unofficial Tests in Bloemfontein against South Africa A – was not included either.

While Rahane has struggled for runs, he has had the constant backing of his teammates and the management, including KL Rahul, who is currently donning the  vice-captaincy hat after Rohit’s ruling-out injury in the lead-up to the series.

“Ajinkya has been a very important part of our Test team and has played very, very crucial knocks in his career. The last 15-18 months, if I can think back, his knock in Melbourne was really really crucial; it helped us win a Test match. That partnership with [Cheteshwar] Pujara at Lord’s in the second innings where he got a fifty was really important, and that ended up in us winning the Test match. So he’s been a key player for us in the middle order, and he’s a very, very strong player,” Rahul said during a recent press interaction