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Ajinkya Rahane: India’s old-school batsman who can shoulder boundless pressure at the highest level

Whenever Ajinkya Rahane has been found wanting at the international level, he has proved his worth playing for Rajasthan Royals © Getty Images
Whenever Ajinkya Rahane has been found wanting at the international level, he has proved his worth playing for Rajasthan Royals © Getty Images

Born on June 5, 1988, Ajinkya Rahane belongs to old school of batting. At the same-time, he has shown in his brief career that when required, he can also play a wide array of strokes. Bharath Ramaraj looks back at the career of Rahane with a bird’s eye-view.

 

Back in 2007-08 domestic season, when Ajinkya Rahane with oodles of talent aggregated over 1,000 runs, there was genuine hope that he can be a pillar of strength in the Indian batting line-up. The next season, he went one step further by amassing close to 1,400 runs. By then, good judges of the game backed him to succeed in pressure-cooker situations and play for his country with diligence and distinction.

Rahane’s success at the domestic level bore fruit, as he was picked to play in the One-Day International (ODI) series against England in 2011. In the first game he played at Chester-le-Street, Rahane sparkled with a fine knock. He broke away from the shackles of being unfairly labeled as a Test match batsman with his divine and pristine batsmanship.

Even in the second ODI played at Rose Bowl, Southampton, he came out all guns blazing against an attack that comprised of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann to compile a quickfire half-century. However, it has to be said that Rahane for all his undoubted brilliance never seemed well-suited to opening the batting. Rahane struggled in the games he played against Pakistan and England at home in 2012-13 season.

To make it worse for him, England’s seamer, Steven Finn seemed to have found a flaw in his technique by angling it into the right-hander to find a gap between bat and pad. Even on his Test debut against Australia at New Delhi, Rahane failed to make his presence felt.

Surprisingly, every-time the fledgling battler known for playing with a sound technique has struggled to make his mark, it is the slam bang version of Indian Premier League (IPL) that helped him to find form and confidence. He averaged close to 35 during IPL 6 in 2013 for Rajasthan Royals. When India toured South Africa to play on the Samba tracks of the Rainbow Nation, it was time for Rahane to stretch every sinew to stand up to the might of opposition ranks. He did exactly that with superbly constructed knocks of 96 not out and 51 at Durban. He didn’t flinch one bit during those lung-busting battles against the likes of Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and company. A sign of a good player indeed.

Rahane followed up his fine showing in South Africa with his first Test hundred against New Zealand at Wellington. In a crucial Test match that India needed to win to square the series 1-1, it was Rahane’s century that gave India hope. By playing with steady perfection twinned with crisply essayed drives and flicks, he kept threading the minutest of gaps. It was an innings that was an epitome of poise and unmatched brilliance. Eventually, Brendon McCullum’s tripe-hundred helped New Zealand to script a memorable draw.

Rahane has the required technique and temperament  to become one of the stalwarts of Indian batting line-up in the years to come. In fact, he has the ability to shoulder boundless pressure and come out as a true winner.

(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)

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