Stats: Examining Ajinkya Rahane's struggles on turning pitches
An in-depth look at Rahane's home and away record to track his issues against spin.
Playing quality spin bowling on different types of pitches including rank turners has been the strongest suit of Indian batsmen since time immemorial. The Indian team’s domineering record on home soil stands as a testament to their batting prowess under familiar terrain. However, most of their failures away from the subcontinent can be ascertained from their batsmen’s troubles against pace and swing.
In sharp contrast, Ajinkya Rahane’s career makes for an interesting study. Resilient and productive against world-class fast bowlers on seam-friendly conditions, the Mumbaikar has not quite managed to replicate the same success on home soil.
He came through the ranks based on his solid domestic record accumulated on various types of turning pitches against some of the leading spinners in the country. Rahane has been playing first-class cricket since 2007. As such, he would have played a good 4 years or so on spin-friendly surfaces before the whitewashes in England and Australia forced Indian curators to equip upcoming domestic batsmen to seaming conditions.
Despite forging an imposing record at home under Virat Kohli’s captaincy, the surprising defeat in Pune at the hands of an unheralded Australia team paved the way to track the ability of the current set of Indian batsmen on turning tracks. With Rahane being the focal point and a minimum qualification of 500 runs, let us take a look at the top run-scorers on Indian soil since the 28-year old’s Test debut.
Strange discrepancy between home and away record
There is always some discrepancy between the home and away record of almost every top batsman. However, in Rahane’s case, it seems to be the other way around. As against an impressive average of 51.22 away from the confines of home, he averages a rather below par 39.28 on Indian soil. It is pertinent to consider that his away numbers include 3 matches in Sri Lanka (comparable surfaces to India) and another 3 in West Indies wherein pitches are becoming increasingly spin-friendly.
While segregating his overall Test career into each innings, Rahane’s numbers get weaker as the matches progress. Admittedly, batting in the third and fourth innings when the pitches get increasingly worse is never easy. However, his inconsistency is evident from the fact that he averages only 39.46 in the third innings despite scoring 2 centuries and 2 fifties. In the 22 innings, he failed to reach 50 in the last two innings, his average reads a measly 17.60.
|Country||Number of Innings||Runs||Average||Highest Score||Centuries||Fifties|
Delving deeper into Rahane’s numbers
As with every other case-study, stand-alone numbers might not tell the entire story. Or rather, they need to be taken into the right context along with the nature of pitches on offer and situations which the team finds itself in.
Indeed, Rahane was the only batsman on either side to reach three figures in the 2015 India-South Africa series played on alarmingly deteriorating pitches. He managed to reach the feat not once but twice (both in the final Test in Delhi). However, that particular match was played on a sluggish surface where the turn on offer was pretty slow and manageable. It took some exceptional bowling by Umesh Yadav and the resilience of India's spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja to finally break the visitors’ blockathon of 143.1 overs in the fourth innings.
His third home century came against New Zealand in the 2016 series. On a fresh batting track in Indore, Rahane scored a 381-ball 188 and put on 365 runs with Kohli. However, it was also the same pitch which produced the visitors’ highest team total in the 3-match series.
No place for hard hands and indecisive footwork on a turning track
So, what ails Rahane the Test batsman on turning tracks? Having grown up at the Wankhede Stadium wherein the turn is usually quick, he has struggled to adapt to the slow and enticing spin prevalent at other venues in the country. Unlike Mumbai, the majority of the other pitches in India demand playing with soft hands.
The other bone of contention revolves around the right-hander’s ambiguous footwork. Decisive movement, either front or back, was the major reason behind the authoritative exploits by former Indian batsmen against the turning ball. In Rahane’s case, he does not quite utilise those typical sinewy subcontinental wrists to a similar effect as seen by his predecessors.
With Karun Nair pushing for a case to enter the playing eleven on a more regular basis at home, Rahane has to quickly find his rhythm on turning pitches against the visiting spin bowlers. If he does manage to do so, he will turn into one of those rare versatile batsmen who can succeed on almost every type of surface present in the game.
|Opponent||Venue||1st Innings Score||Dismissal by||2nd Innings Score||Dismissal by|
|Australia||Delhi||7||Nathan Lyon||1||Glenn Maxwell|
|South Africa||Mohali||15||Dean Elgar||2||Simon Harmer|
|South Africa||Nagpur||13||Morne Morkel||9||Imran Tahir|
|South Africa||Delhi||127||Imran Tahir||100*||________|
|New Zealand||Kanpur||18||Mark Craig||40||Mitchell Santner|
|New Zealand||Kolkata||77||Jeetan Patel||1||Matt Henry|
|New Zealand||Indore||188||Trent Boult||23*||_______|
|England||Rajkot||13||Zafar Ansari||1||Moeen Ali|
|England||Vizag||23||James Anderson||26||Stuart Broad|
|Bangladesh||Hyderabad||82||Taijul Islam||28||Shakib Al Hasan|
|Australia||Pune||13||Steve O’Keefe||18||Steve O’Keefe|
(*Note: All Statistics in this article are accurate as of 28th February, 2017)