Ajinkya Rahane - India's pocket-sized dynamo
Mumbai has produced many a gem for the Indian batting line up. You name a star batsmen in the Indian team and if you are not so sure of the place from where he hails, Mumbai would not be a bad guess at all. The financial capital of India has always been a factory line of quality batsmanship. From Sunil Gavaskar to Sachin Tendulkar, there have been numerous special batsmen from Mumbai. The latest addition to this ever growing list is Ajinkya Rahane, who has made heads turn in the cricketing circles.
The Mumbaikar, who not surprisingly idolizes Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, has silently been amassing important runs overseas. The little man, who had been waiting on the sidelines and carrying drinks for his teammates for nearly a year, pounced on his opportunity like a tiger would on a helpless prey.
A promising start
His first Test tour to South Africa posed serious questions to his techniques, but he let his bat do all the talking against the intimidating African bowlers. He pulled, cut and hooked impressively, playing an innings that his idol would have certainly been proud of, only to fall 4 runs short of a deserving ton. He might have missed out on his maiden century, but by the look of that innings, it couldn’t be long till many centuries flew off his bat.
That moment arrived in New Zealand. He did not stop there as he chose special and historical venues to script his next two centuries, one at Lord’s and the other at MCG. His compact technique and steely nerves had made him a mainstay in the test scheme of things for India.
For a batsman who should have taken to ODIs like a fish takes to water with his rich range of shots, somehow failed to replicate his performance in Tests in the shorter format. However, the team management knew it was only a matter of time till he comes good.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man
The big moment finally came in the World Cup match against the Proteas, when he made 79 off just 60 balls, an innings that was worth its value in gold. Ajinkya Rahane had finally arrived! What better time to showcase his prowess, than at cricket's biggest event against the best bowlers in the business, watched on by Sachin Tendulkar, himself. The tables had turned for once, lady luck had smiled big time on the small man.
Not so often does a Virat Kohli dismissal goes unnoticed. But it just did, when Rahane walked out and kept milking the South African bowlers for runs. He was never hurried by the pace of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel nor did he get bogged down. The straight batted loft off Morkel and a similar shot against Steyn were simply jaw dropping. The ferocity with which he drove and pulled the fastest bowlers reminded us of the big heart that resided within a small body.
The Mumbai boy may not possess the power of a Shikar Dhawan nor the big hits of a MS Dhoni, but what stands out is his sense of timing and his knack of finding the gaps more often not. While many Asian players like to get inside the line of the ball and work the ball to the leg side, Rahane is quite the opposite. He prefers giving himself some room and creaming it through the off side. He so often goes for the inside out shot over covers which is one of the most difficult shots to execute with the precision that he manages.
It was a clear signal to the bowlers that there is a lot of power lurking in the small frame that he possesses. If Virat Kohli has a bad day, the Indian fans have a man in which they can place their faith on and who is capable of delivering as effectively as him.
The silent assassin
While teams will be busy plotting Kohli's downfall, Ajinkya Rahane will be a thorn in their flesh. It is all very good for this Indian team that Virat and Dhawan occupy the headlines as that leaves Rahane, their biggest trump card in this World Cup, hiding behind dangerously.
The Indian captain was all praise for Rahane's flexibility and ability to come good in any situation. For a batsman of his calibre, he was sent way too low down the order against Pakistan, but being a team-man that he is, Rahane obliged to his captain's request and let go his batting slot for the team's cause. When faced with a similar situation against South Africa, MS Dhoni preferred to send in Rahane ahead of Suresh Raina, to rein in the Proteas speedsters. His belief in the little man paid rich dividends, as he played a knock that changed the course of the innings.
However good a batsman you may be, the harsh reality is that the world judges you by the statistics and numbers at the end of the day. An ODI average of 30.96 is not something that one would associate with someone of Rahane's talent. The Mumbaikar would be wary of this stats but would do well not to think about it too much. If he continues batting the way he did against the South Africans, the numbers will take care of itself.
Good things come in small packages, they say, not without a reason. Rahane is one prime example!