Is Rahane Walking On Thin Ice?
Ajinkya Rahane will walk out to bat alongside KL Rahul on Tuesday for the last Indian innings of the India-England series at The Oval, knowing full well that he has to bat his skin out to save the Test match and his career.
This may sound a bit extreme but numbers and statistics support my view, and Rahane, who was touted to be the most successful batsman in overseas conditions by most people who know in Indian cricket, has flattered to deceive in this series.
Rahane is one of the very few Indian batsmen to have scored centuries in New Zealand, Australia and England.
He has impressed in South Africa too, where he once missed out on a hundred by a whisker. He has scored six of his nine Test hundreds away from India and boasts of an impressive average of 46.75 which is more than the one he has at home.
He is technically sound, mentally tough and loves a challenge. So why does he find his place in the playing XI in danger?
The last time Rahane got a Test hundred outside Asia was in Kingston, Jamaica in July 2016 against the West Indies.
He was in fine nick then, having notched a century preceding that on both innings against the South Africans in Delhi. Since then, Rahane has scored just one century away from home- a solid 132 against Sri Lanka in Colombo.
After that, he has gone through a dip in form and fortune. He was dropped from the One-day side but later made his way back, only to be left out of the playing XI on numerous occasions. Rahane's scores in 2018 read 9, 48, 10, 15, 2, 18, 13, 81, 29, 11, 51 and 0. He is batting on 10 at The Oval.
Statistics and numbers don’t often tell the whole story but anyone who has watched Rahane bat in this series will tell you that he’s lost in the woods.
Apart from the 81, he got at Trent Bridge and the 51 at the Ageas Bowl, he has looked unconvincing and out-of-touch against James Anderson and company.
He has been pushing at balls pitched way outside the off stump and attempted to drive balls which ought to have been blocked.
Sunil Gavaskar has been furious in the commentary box, and rightly so because you don’t expect a player possessing Rahane’s stature and technical brilliance to make such rudimentary mistakes.
The team management believes in Rahane. He even has the vice-captaincy in the Test team. He is a trusted lieutenant of Virat Kohli and a close Ravi Shastri aide.
That he has the management’s backing was clear when he came back to play against Bangladesh in the 2017 home series even after Karun Nair had got a triple-hundred in the previous Test.
Kohli then chose to mention the fact that Rahane had missed the Test due to injury and it would be unfair to leave him out.
It is imperative to know that Rahane has the likes of Rohit Sharma, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Sheldon Jackson, Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw breathing down his neck for a spot in Test XI (although the last two are openers, they wouldn’t mind being given playing time, would they?), and he has to keep them at bay for a long time.
The innings at The Oval provides him with a perfect opportunity. He surely possesses the courage and guts to grind it out and score runs against this English bowling attack, as he showed in the Lord’s Test in 2014.
One can only hope that he does it again this time because he is a good man and India does not want to lose one in times like this. I, along with a billion Indians wish Ajinkya Rahane luck for Tuesday because India needs saving and so does his career.