Ajinkya Rahane: Not just the next Rahul Dravid, but also the next VVS Laxman?
Why Rahane is a Dravid-Laxman combo.
1.118 against New Zealand in Wellington
After having bowled out the Blackcaps for 192 on the first day, India, found themselves at 141 for 3 when Rahane walked out to the middle, to join Shikhar Dhawan. The right-hander began his stay with a lovely crisp straight drive and followed that up with a terrific back foot punch, which yielded four more runs. But while he was in the process of moving towards a big score, he lost three more partners at the other end in Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. MS Dhoni though joined him in the middle and the duo put on 120 for the 7th wicket.
Rahane's real job, however, was yet to begin and it eventually did when Ravindra Jadeja was dismissed for 26 with India at 385 for 8 with a lead of close to 200 runs, which on a pitch that had flattened out considerably, didn't seem enough.
The right-hander had the job of adding runs with the tail and the best part about the next few runs that he added along with them was the manner in which he played according to the merit of the ball, trusted the batsman at the other end and kept the scoreboard ticking along.
There was no slogging whatsoever, and courtesy a pull shot off Neil Wagner he brought up his maiden Test hundred. If the hundred was impressive, the celebration was even better. He just took his helmet off, looked up at the heavens and got back to his job.
Little did we know that this was going to be customary of every celebration of his. He was eventually out for 118 and had helped India take a lead of 246 runs.
2. 103 against England at Lords
On a green seamer, the inexperienced Indian batsmen were left totally exposed by the England bowling attack comprising of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes. Every batsman except Rahane. Walking into bat at the score of 86 for 3, the right-hander looked in good shape right from the beginning, even as the rest kept folding up cheaply.
140 for 6 at Tea became 145 for 7 immediately after the interval and it seemed like India were going to be bowled up for a score under 200.
But that is when he gave yet another glimpse of his abilities to bat with the lower order and added 90 vital runs with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who contributed 36 valuable runs to keep his side in the game.
There were shades of Wellington here as well, as Rahane reached his first 50 runs off 103 balls and his next 50 at a run-a-ball to get to his second Test hundred and in the process also emulate his idol Rahul Dravid, by notching up a century at the home of cricket.
India recovered to post a competitive 295 in their first innings.
3.128 against Sri Lanka at Colombo
Unlike the first two hundreds, Rahane was in a different kind of crisis when he arrived at 3 for 1 in the second innings of the Test against Sri Lanka. Rohit Sharma had looked off-colour at the number 3 slot in the opening Test and so his Mumbai teammate was pushed to No.3.
The pitch was turning, India had lost KL Rahul, and in Rangana Herath Sri Lanka had someone who had shown in Galle what he was capable off.
But the situation didn't bother him too much and he looked comfortable from the beginning, coming on the front foot and playing correct cricketing shots to ensure the pressure was back on the hosts.
On Sunday, Rahane continued to show off his class and on a turning Day 4 pitch played some majestic shots to bring up his 4th Test hundred and put India firmly on the driver's seat.
He was eventually dismissed for 128 by which time India had got a sizeable lead.
Shades of VVS as well
Due to his ability to bat where the team requires him to and his willingness to stand in slips and pluck terrific catches, Rahane has drawn comparisons with Dravid.
But what the above centuries also show is that he has a few qualities within him that is reminiscent of VVS Laxman as well.
Just like the stylish Hyderabadi, Rahane seems to possess the traits of getting a team out of a hole particularly when batting with the lower order, as was seen in Wellington and Lord's; and he also seems to have the ability to guide the lower order and provide them with the confidence to score runs.
In Wellington, Rahane got the senior pro- Zaheer Khan to hang around with him so that he could get the support he needed and added 38 runs with him, 8 off which came off Zaheer’s bat.
At Lord's he added 36 with Mohammad Shami, 11 off which came from the fast bowler’s bat.
When VVS retired, one of the questions that was asked was who would deliver like he did in the future when the team was stuck in a crisis? Who would be the guy who would step when the rest failed to do so? Well, Rahane so far has shown that he can be depended upon to do that job and one can certainly hope that he brings India out of a soup in the future matches as well.