Why Ajinkya Rahane should not be in the ODI setup
Over the past 3-4 years, Ajinkya Rahane has established himself as one of India’s finest cricketers across all formats of the sport. He is not a very aggressive batsman according to his body language, but his sublime footwork coupled with his immaculate timing makes him a versatile batsman who can always play per the situation.
During the Champions Trophy three months back, Rahane could only play two warm-up matches against New Zealand and Bangladesh where he scored only 7 and 11 and was consequently relegated to the dressing room for the entirety of the tournament.
However, following the Champions Trophy, he performed brilliantly in the Tour of West Indies where he scored a century and three half-centuries in five ODIs and was adjudged the Man of the Series.
After the West Indies Tour, Rahane travelled to Sri Lanka for a three-match Test series and scored 229 runs from 4 innings at an average of 76.33. However, during the ODI series, he was benched for the first four matches as India sealed the series by then. In the final ODI, Rahane was included in the playing XI in place of Shikhar Dhawan but was dismissed for just 5 by Lasith Malinga.
With Shikhar Dhawan unavailable for the first three ODIs against Australia to meet his sick wife, Rahane was given the opening responsibilities. However, he disappointed for the second match running as he was dismissed by Nathan Coulter-Nile for 5 in the first ODI at Chennai. India may have won the match but Rahane’s second consecutive poor performance does make us think about having questions in our mind regarding his place in the ODI team.
Sure just two poor performances is not even a tenth of substantial evidence to axe him from the ODI team yet but it does bring in the possibility of that happening sometime if these performances continue. So, the question is: “Why can Rahane not be a good fit in the ODI Team?”
More consistent batsmen in the top and middle order
Rahane’s versatility has made him suitable both as an opener as well as a middle-order batsman. However, in limited-overs cricket, he has often been better suited as an opener, having scored 1698 of his 2583 runs in ODIs as an opener at an average of 34.65 with all his three centuries coming while opening the innings.
However, the Indian team already has a solid opening pair of Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma who have been India’s premier opening combination for four years now.
With Dhawan and Sharma having performed consistently both individually and as a pair during the Champions Trophy and the ODI series in Sri Lanka, Rahane’s chances in the team as an opener has now become mainly dependent on any one of them getting injured or leaving the team to attend some personal matter.
Even though Rahane is opening material, he can also be a more than handy middle-order batsman who can always take pressure.
However, once again, India seem to be pretty much well equipped in that department as well. They have Virat Kohli who is amongst the best batsmen in the world right now and even though he scored a duck in the first ODI, he is sure to rebound strongly as we saw him come back strongly during the ODI series in Sri Lanka where he disappointed during the second and third ODIs but scored hundreds in the final two games.
After Kohli, you have Dhoni who is going on proving time and again that he is far from done with international cricket. In the likes of Hardik Pandya and Kedar Jadhav, you have two batsmen who can finish well but can also contribute with the ball, particularly the former.
The one player who Rahane can fight with for a spot is Manish Pandey who hasn’t completely cemented his spot in the team but can still be someone to take away the No.4 spot from Rahane. The presence of such players has always kept Rahane away from the playing XI, thus making every opportunity that he gets to bat, a make or break one. This adds up to more pressure, and even though Rahane is known for his calmness and ability to take pressure well, he is still human and there are times when the pressure can get the better of you, just as MS Dhoni said during the presentation ceremony of the 2011 World Cup Final.
However, all isn’t lost for Rahane as yet as he still has at least another two games to prove himself, the first of which begins today in a couple of hours (if the present weather keeps up and no rains occur).
Even though India have KL Rahul as another possible opener, Rahane should be considered as Rahul hasn’t been as convincing so as to use him as an opener. So, if Rahane is able to perform well in the next two ODIs, he might as well be considered for the final two games as well despite Dhawan’s presence. However, if he fails to do so, then it might be the beginning of the end for Ajinkya Rahane from the ODI team.