Ajinkya Rahane’s gem of an innings against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Sunday was a sight for sore eyes. Arunabha Sengupta, a Test cricket romantic, cannot restrain himself from coming out in effusive praise of this T20 century.
Recently, when this writer - a purist to the core - lamented the mayhem wrecked by T20 on the traditional game, a sparkling analogy of the three formats was provided by a reader’s response” “Test Cricket is classical art film, One-Day Internationals commercial masala movies and Twenty20 porn. That is why T20 sells and Tests are played in front of empty galleries.”
On Sunday afternoon, in keeping with the parallels, a stadium full of raucous revellers had turned up at Bangalore’s Chinnaswamy Stadium expecting the crudest form of entertainment. And these lucky many were treated to a display of pure cricketing brilliance that kept excitement at fever pitch, and yet, left the soul filled to the brim. It was as if out of the mouldy screen of the shady movie theatre screening lewd x-rated stuff, a serious star had emerged.
The Indian Premier League (IPL) over the years have resembled a harvest festival, filled with agricultural hoicks and uncouth scythes. Baseball-style giant batters have been marauding across the scenes more and more, heaving and bludgeoning the ball to remote, unexpected corners with ungainly lusty swings of mace like willows. In such a world, Rahane, with his slight build, gift of timing, straightest of bats and untainted loyalty to the edicts of pristine cricket, seems like Prahlada in the daitya-demon dominated world.
Even when he took 24 runs off a Sreenath Aravind over, the booty was persuaded off the bowler rather than plundered, the ball coaxed rather than hammered. When the revered Muttiah Muralitharan was lofted for six, he was not curved to the cow corner with a wager on life and wicket, but struck on nifty feet, with immaculate control, inside out, over covers, with the bat held vertical enough to enable Euclidean lessons on the right angle.
It was a gemstone that emerged from the lower pits, a lotus that bloomed in cricket’s squalid slush.
Ultimately he remained unbeaten with 103, made off 60 balls with 12 fours and five sixes. A man who had sat on the benches, warming them up with his latent potential, as India suffered eight successive defeats overseas; a man who averages 68.47 in 50 first-class matches with 18 centuries.
He has now scored big – and impeccably – under the glamour garnished spotlight, the only arena across the year and world where every eye seems to be constantly riveted. Maybe along with winning thousands of cricket loving hearts, he has finally done enough to start a pivotal train of thought in important minds.
(Arunabha Sengupta is trained from Indian Statistical Institute as a Statistician. He works as a Process Consultant, but purifies the soul through writing and cricket, often mixing the two into a cleansing cocktail. The author of three novels, he currently resides in the incredibly beautiful, but sadly cricket-ignorant, country of Switzerland. You can know more about him from his author site, his cricket blogs and by following him on Twitter)