By Nishad Pai Vaidya
Have the inconsistent selection policies dented the confidence of Ajinkya Rahane? The young batsman had been a perennial benchwarmer for over 12 months until Virender Sehwag’s axing from the One-Day International squad (ODI) allowed him a longer stint. However, after a promising start at Rajkot in the ongoing series against England, Rahane has been bowled cheaply in two consecutive games, mounting the pressure on him to perform.
Rahane is one player who certainly deserves a long rope. Following an impressive start to his international career, he was reduced to a makeshift option – drafted in inconsequential games in a series and then benched thereafter. Such treatment could easily dent any player’s confidence as he would believe that every opportunity was his last to impress. On the other hand, he might also assume that a good performance may not be enough to hold on to a spot.
During the stormy tour to England in 2011, Rahane was one of the few positives to emerge as he came into the one-day series. He looked a part of the highest level and wasn’t overawed by the conditions or the situation. The team itself was struggling, but here was a young man who fearlessly took on the bowlers, presenting hope for a better tomorrow. A few months down the line – during England’s visit to India – he reassured the selectors with another encouraging display. However, the five wise men and the think-tank had other ideas.
When the West Indies arrived in late 2011 for an ODI series, Rahane found himself sitting out. Consider this, his last three scores prior to that series read 91, 20 and 42. He had to make way for Sehwag who was coming into the one-day squad after quite some time. The opportunity did come Rahane’s way though – in the final game of the series – after India had sealed the contest. What happened was anti-climactic as he was dismissed for naught.
Then came the ultimate game of fate. Manoj Tiwary scored a maiden ton in that game against the West Indies at Chennai and won a berth for the tri-series in Australia. Poor Rahane lost out as Sachin Tendulkar returned to the side. What this said was that a lot of importance was given to that one single game in Chennai and that some spots were unquestionable. Tiwary wasn’t lucky either as he had to wait for months for his next game.
To some extent, it was almost as if the two men shared their destiny. Both Rahane and Tiwary got their next chances in the ODI series against Sri Lanka. While Tiwary went on to have a good time, Rahane got a solitary outing – that too in a dead rubber. The Mumbai batsman’s next match was also an inconsequential encounter – against Pakistan at Delhi.
With such opportunities coming few and far in between, it is clear that Rahane has been unsettled. In his last six ODIs, he has scored in the double figures only once and that shows that the sporadic opportunities did him no good.
To come good, Rahane needs time and a long run in the side. He might take time to recover, but it is important to invest in him with an eye for the future on a batsman whose talent is never in doubt.
The Indian selectors are known to commit inexplicable gaffes. Perhaps it is time some sanity creeps in. Is that asking too much?
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_