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Why Ajinkya Rahane deserves to make an ODI comeback: An opinion backed by numbers

Ajinkya Rahane
Ajinkya Rahane
ANALYST
Modified 30 Aug 2020, 23:32 IST
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India’s Test vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane recently stated that he is hopeful of making a comeback into the Indian One-Day team despite not having been part of the set-up for over two years now.

The 32-year-old, who has joined Delhi Capitals for IPL 2020, argues that he had a very good record in One-Dayers even before being axed. If you look at Ajinkya Rahane’s overall record, it is a more than decent one -- 2962 runs in 90 ODIs at an average of 35.26 and a strike rate of 78.63 with three hundreds and 24 fifties.

But do Ajinkya Rahane’s numbers in his recent One-Day games justify his claims of being good enough to make a comeback in white-ball cricket? Let’s find out.

Nothing much to complain about

If one takes a closer look at Ajinkya Rahane’s ODI record from January 1, 2017 to his last ODI till date (February 2018), the period when the tussle for India’s number four for World Cup 2019 was reaching its peak, Rahane actually enjoyed a rather fruitful period.

In 18 games during this phase, he scored 726 runs at an average of 45.37 with one hundred. Not only that, India won 13 of the matches Rahane played in during this period. In fact, Rahane had an even better record in games India triumphed in -- 542 runs in 13 games at an average of 49.27. And, in games that India lost, Rahane’s average dropped to 30.50.

One can only term bizarre the Indian management’s decision to not play him in ODIs ahead of the World Cup, and thus, rather unfairly, deny him a chance to stake his claim for a spot in the middle-order for the mega tournament in England.

The No.4 quandary

India’s inability to find a number four for the World Cup was among the chief reasons for their debacle in the tournament. Here again, it is the team think-tank that has to take the blame. With Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma being a formidable opening pair, Ajinkya Rahane was never going to get a chance to open in the World Cup.

Yet, Ajinkya Rahane was made to open the innings 12 times in 18 games starting January 1, 2017. Here again, the Mumbai lad did not disappoint, putting together 586 runs at an average of 48.83.

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Ajinkya Rahane batted in the middle-order in six other games, and scored 140 runs at an average of 35. One can argue that Ajinkya Rahane’s numbers here aren’t good enough. Then again, how can one take a call on a quality player like Rahane based on a small sample size of six innings?

Did India err in dropping Ajinkya Rahane for World Cup?

Ajinkya Rahane
Ajinkya Rahane

Most definitely. While it is always easy to argue in hindsight, cricket logic can answer who was the better choice at number four for the World Cup -- three-dimensional Vijay Shankar, erratic Rishabh Pant or reliable Ajinkya Rahane. There is no guarantee that India would have won the World Cup semi-final had Ajinkya Rahane been in the squad.

But there is no doubt that he was best equipped to handle the movement and juice New Zealand’s bowlers extracted out of the Manchester surface. To win the World Cup India needed to pick their best possible side, which they clearly didn’t and paid the price for the same.

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As for Rahane’s return to the ODI fold, his numbers merit a comeback. In West Indies in June-July 2017, he ran up scores of 62, 103, 72, 60 and 39. Then, he registered fifties in five consecutive ODIs -- four against Australia and home, and one in South Africa.

How many ODI experts can boast of possessing such a record? If fit and in form, there is no reason why Rahane shouldn't be part of the 2023 World Cup outfit. The Indian set-up goofed up majorly in 2019. And if they want to set things right before 2023, the change for good must begin now.

Published 30 Aug 2020, 23:32 IST
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