Rahane

Ajinkya Rahane represented Mumbai at all age groups. Hence, earning a spot in Mumbai Ranji team was not that tough a task. He was always in the news with his remarkable performances at the domestic level. His 172 against England Lions in 2007 changed his fortunes. Mind you, the bowling unit featured the likes of Monty Panesar, Liam Plunkett, Graham Onions, and he was just 19 then. As a matter of fact, he took very little time to translate his talent into performance. Armed with sound technique, he is a delight to watch when on song. A natural boundary-hitter, he is one of the very few batsmen who makes merry in all the conditions. Live cricket scorecard: India vs New Zealand, 3rd Test

To put things into perspective, he needs no introduction. The cricketing world is well aware of his achievements. All the same, we need to know more of him before we walk through his resounding 188 against New Zealand at Indore’s Holkar Stadium. His debut was forgettable, scoring 8 runs against Australia at Delhi. However, he played his very second Test at South Africa’s Johannesburg. After two decades, India toured the African nation without the legendary Sachin Tendulkar. Rahane then batted at No. 6, the position which VVS Laxman graced in early 2000s.

He transuded similar vigour, though. He added 68 runs with Virat Kohli and 45 with Dhoni, helping India post a reasonable 280. Nonetheless, he missed his maiden half-century by 3 runs. The match ended in a draw.

Then came the turning point. Rahane scored an unbeaten 51 in the first innings of the next Test, followed by a fighting 96 in the second innings. There is more to it than it appears.

Out of team’s total of 223, Rahane scored 96. When the likes of Kohli, Dhoni and Murali Vijay struggled, the Mumbaikar ensured his team does not lose the contest by an innings. He may not have reached his maiden century, but at least helped India post a target of 59.

India then toured New Zealand. Rahane scored his first century at Wellington. The match ended in a draw. Somehow, his valiant efforts went in vain. Also read: Virat Kohli v2.0 is intimidating, very intimidating

England was the next tour. By then, Rahane had established himself as a reliable middle-order batter. He scored 32 and 24 in first match at Nottingham.

The second contest at Lord’s saw Rahane’s rise to fame. A venue every cricketer dreams of playing at, Rahane had the same on his mind. He wanted to etch his name on the honours board. And for that to happen, one has to reach the three-figure mark, something Tendulkar in his 24-year-long career could not attain. In addition, it took his mentor Rahul Dravid 16 years to get his name displayed.

Rahane was playing only his seventh Test. The opposition had the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad in their bowling arsenal. Every other batsmen failed to tackle the swing. Not to blame them, but the conditions are such that the visitors need a lot of match practice to get accustomed to the conditions.

Rahane, however, scored a century, gifting India a 95-run victory, after 22 overs at Lord’s.

So far, he had played only one Test at home. The challenge was getting tougher for him. India went to Australia for a four-Test series. Meanwhile, Rahane’s brilliance was on repeat. His scores read: 62, 0, 81, 10, 147, 48, 13, 38*.

Then came an easy 98 in a one-off Test against Bangladesh, followed by a sensational 126 at Colombo.

Gradually, he became India’s MVP overseas.

He eventually played a Test series at home, 17 overseas matches later. South Africa toured India in 2015, a series of rank-turners. No Indian batsman managed to score a century until the last Test. And no longer could India post a colossal 500-run total on the scoreboard. Rahane, for that matter, failed as well.

Be that as it may, it was the last Test that saw Rahane score twin centuries at the same venue where he made his debut, becoming only the fifth Indian to do so.

Barring the series against Bangladesh and the one in South Africa, he could not reach hundred. But wasn’t he dismissed in the 90s? Well, these were the only two occasions he fell prey to nervous 90s.

India went to West Indies two months ago, and Rahane scored another overseas century.

Ever since his debut, India have not played a Test against Pakistan, the only top Test-playing he has no century against.

In the ongoing Test series against New Zealand, no batsman could churn out a hundred. Rahane was expected to do the same. He did so but captain Kohli reached the three-figure mark a session before.

India were 100 for 3. It was a two-paced track, and Rahane blossoms when the ball comes onto the ball well. He struggled, so much so that he top-edged a few bouncers in the deep. Fortune favoured him though, as his mishits fell short of the fielders.

Kane Williamson positioned a leg-slip and forward short-leg. Matt Henry came around the wicket, aiming Rahane’s ribs. Rahane was completely rattled by the tactic. He looked out of sorts. He had to take nasty body blows. He was also once hit on his helmet. A patchy innings, it was.

Rahane decided to change his approach. He took on the spinners. Attack is the only defence, they say. Rahane pursued the same path.

He danced down the track and sent the ball soaring over the boundary line to reach his fifty. Kohli and he punched their gloves in excitement. They both knew the importance of the partnership. But the job was half done. They ended Day One at 267 for 3.

It was imperative that New Zealand take wickets in the first session of Day Two. For that to happen, they had to get the better of the staggering duo of Kohli and Rahane.

The track had lost all the moisture. There wasn’t slightest of movements for the pacers. Rahane took the charge and dictated terms to the opposition. He ridiculed every bowling change Williamson made. In short, he did not let any bowler settle. He still looked edgy. There was no sense of calmness in his approach. All of these did not matter, as he reached his eight ton. A friendly hug from his captain showed the amount of respect he has for his deputy. Rahane raised his arms in relief. He scored a century, nonetheless. Also read: Kohli-Rahane’s partnership and other statistical highlights from Day 2

Kohli, at the other end, was looking godly comfortable at the crease. In the process, he scored his second double-century of his career. Meanwhile, Rahane did not change his brand of cricket. He smashed as many as 4 sixes, all against spinners and all while shimming down the wicket.

Kohli perished, as the duo added 365 runs for the fourth wicket.

The match was inching closer to the end of Day Two’s play. Declaration was on the cards. However, Kohli waited for Rahane’s double-century.

The 28-year-old knew India had very little time left. The bowlers need time to assess the pitch, if truth be told. As a result, Rahane decided to up the ante. And in the process of doing so, he selflessly gave away his wicket, trying to ease a length delivery past cover-point. He edged the ball instead and missed the milestone by 12.

Edgy, patch or lucky, you may call it an unlike-Rahane innings. There wasn’t enough grace in his knock. He did play attractive strokes but in intervals. It wasn’t fluent enough like his other masterful innings. He did provide the much-needed impetus, all the same.

188, Rahane’s highest score in the longest format.

(Kaustubh S. Mayekar, a reporter at CricketCountry, played cricket at U-16 level. Like his idol Rahul Dravid, he often shadow-practises cricket shots. His Twitter handle is @kaumedy_)