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With the business end of the Indian Premier League (IPL) upon us, the Rajasthan Royals (RR) are one of the teams that seem likely to progress to the final four. Shiamak Unwalla looks at one of the mainstays of the Rajasthan line-up, Ajinkya Rahane.
Muhammad Ali once famously said that he would “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.” Ajinkya Rahane, perhaps unknowingly, follows much the same principle. At first look, Rahane does not seem like the kind of batsman who would thrive in Twenty20s (T20s). He seems even less likely to thrive at the top of the order. He does not possess the aggression of Gautam Gambhir, the power of Dwayne Smith, or the ability to go after the bowling like Virender Sehwag.
What Rahane does possess, is patience. It is an oft-underrated quality in a batsman. Of course, some players like Chris Gayle and Glenn Maxwell hardly look like they need it. And yet, in a low scoring thriller between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Chennai Super Kings, Gayle showed the patience to stay in and play an innings most unlike his usual ones. He made 46 runs off 50 balls with three fours and three sixes. In the end, that proved to be a crucial innings in the context of the match.
That is what Rahane does well. In a line-up comprising a number of big hitters like Shane Watson, Stuart Binny, James Faulkner and Steve Smith, Rahane seems like a violinist amongst heavy metal drummers. That isn’t to say that heavy metal drummers are unworthy, just that a violinist usually has more finesse to his art.
Rahane has been one of the mainstays of the Rajasthan line-up since the 2012 edition of the IPL. With an average of almost 31 after 65 games, Rahane rates among the more successful openers in the IPL. While his strike rate is a mere 117, it should be noted that he has played a majority of his games at the SawaiMansingh Stadium in Jaipur known to assist pacers. While it is a good pitch for batting, it is by no means a flat track like the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore. The pitch, combined with Rahane’s role in the side — which has been to provide stability at the top, and he has performed the role commendably — justifies a somewhat low strike rate. And yet, Rahane has a T20 century to his name — something that the more traditionally aggressive batsmen like Yuvraj Singh, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni and Gambhir do not have.
What this proves is that Rahane is a batsman who can perform more than one part in a side. So far in IPL 7, Rahane has scored 316 runs at an average of 28.72 and a strike rate of 119. He has scored three fifties, but has not been able to maintain his consistency. In the last game RR played, he made a handsome 64 that helped set Rajasthan up for a 200-plus total. One feels that if Rajasthan are to progress past the final four, Rahane’s performance will be key. The Royals will hope that the butterfly starts stinging more consistently.
(Shiamak Unwalla is a reporter with Cricket Country. He is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and Cricket fanatic who likes to pass his free time by reading books, watching TV shows, and eating food. Sometimes all at the same time. You can follow him on twitter at @ShiamakUnwalla)
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