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‘He might have taken a hit mentally’ – Devang Gandhi opens up on Ajinkya Rahane’s Test exclusion

Ajinkya Rahane hit a personal low in 2018 after being ignored for the two South Africa Tests.
Ajinkya Rahane hit a personal low in 2018 after being ignored for the two South Africa Tests.
Modified 31 Dec 2020, 17:58 IST

Shockwaves went around the cricketing world in 2018 when Ajinkya Rahane – the designated vice-captain in India’s Test setup – was dropped from the first two away Tests against South Africa. Former national selector Devang Gandhi recently revealed the oust affected Rahane’s mental well-being, especially because he had been India’s best overseas batsman from 2013 to 2016.

“That was a time when it looked like he might have taken a hit mentally. Leading up to that South Africa tour, he had done well overseas. Maybe the home series before that he didn’t go as well [as] he had desired, but you got to be patient with a player such as Rahane.
“You always have to look at the bigger picture. Immediately after that, he played a crucial knock of 48 in Johannesburg where won the Test. That showed his character and the ability to fight,” Gandhi, who was then serving as selector from east zone, told TOI.

Along with his Test spot, his place in the ODI line-up was also in jeopardy. Devang Gandhi stated that the uncertainty took a toll on Ajinkya Rahane.

“He was a little disturbed because of his non-inclusion in ODIs. Before that tour, he had scored five fifties in ODIs as opener. But he had to make way once Rohit [Sharma] and Shikhar [Dhawan] got fit. He was part of the squad and then there was the emergence of KL Rahul. It became difficult to pick him,” Gandhi, who played 4 Tests and 3 ODIs, revealed.

Ajinkya Rahane scored 140 runs at an average of 35 in that six-match ODI series against the Proteas. It is worth noting that captain Virat Kohli had spoken about the 32-year-old’s utility in the middle-order ahead of the 2019 World Cup in England. Sadly, the sixth ODI against South Africa was the last Rahane played in the India blue.

‘Vice-captaincy was never in doubt,’ selectors told Ajinkya Rahane

Ajinkya Rahane scored a match-winning 112 off 223 balls in the first innings of the MCG Test.
Ajinkya Rahane scored a match-winning 112 off 223 balls in the first innings of the MCG Test.

To help Ajinkya Rahane be in a better mental state, all selectors assured him of his place in the Indian middle-order in the longest format. Devang Gandhi divulged details from his conversation with the Mumbai lad in 2018, where Rahane was also given security for his Test vice-captaincy.

“All the selectors had conversations with him [Ajinkya Rahane]. I remember Jatin Paranjpe and I having a conversation with him in Bangalore in 2018. He was harping on the way forward for him and asked for clarity. We assured him he was very much there. As far as Test cricket is concerned, his vice-captaincy was never in doubt,” Gandhi stated.

Ajinkya Rahane has always remained committed to both the game and himself. He has perennially strived to improve himself by playing county cricket for Hampshire and even expressing a desire to participate in the India A tours.

Gandhi echoed similar sentiments, saying Ajinkya Rahane’s heroics at the Melbourne Cricket Ground resulted from the hard yards he has put in over the years.

“He was never willing to give up. He went to county cricket. He wanted to prove a point. He showed eagerness to feature in the shadow ‘A’ tours before the big tours. His resolve and mental strength have brought him to this day where he has scripted this comeback for India at the MCG,” Gandhi concluded.

Ajinkya Rahane would look to carry the momentum into the next two Tests in Sydney (Jan 7-11) and Brisbane (Jan 15-19) and help the visitors create an insurmountable feat of beating the Aussies in their own backyard in consecutive series.


Published 31 Dec 2020, 17:58 IST
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