Ajinkya Rahane’s position in the team of late has been a somewhat under-rated one. The Indian Vice-Captain showed his skills as a captain but has faced criticism over his consistency over the last few years. Is the criticism justified, though? A look at the numbers may suggest that they aren’t. After all, Ajinkya Rahane has been a crucial part of the Indian batting line-up for eight years.
Ajinkya Rahane’s journey is a known one too many. The middle-order batsman had to wait for his chance and was quickly impressed with runs overseas. He made centuries on his first tour to England, Australia, and New Zealand. He took on Mitchell Johnson at Melbourne and Dale Steyn in South Africa, where he has a 96. He came in with a technique perfect for overseas conditions. A year into his career, Ajinkya Rahane, along with Murali Vijay, became India’s most reliable batters overseas. The two, along with Pujara, Virat Kohli, and Rohit Sharma, helped fill a gap created by previous legends.
After a successful start, Ajinkya Rahane slowly filled the role of a supporting artist. However, he had a tough home season in 2016, where his spot was questioned despite him doing a decent job. With critics talking about his ability to bat at home, Ajinkya Rahane managed some decent performances in India and Sri Lanka, but his contributions continued to go unnoticed.
His 132 at Colombo, for instance, was overshadowed by a century from Cheteshwar Pujara and a 70 from Jadeja. Moreover, despite possessing one of the best techniques, Ajinkya Rahane was out for the first two Tests in South Africa after a string of low scores at home. However, he did manage a comeback in the third Test, played on a dangerous pitch.
With balls shooting up dangerously, Rahane made a difference in a tough Test match. He batted with the lower order and made a counter-attacking 48. His technique helped him tackle a tricky pitch, and India was able to win a Test in South Africa.
His innings reminded people of his value overseas, and Rahane was retained in the eleven when India toured England. However, while he was India’s best batsman in 2014, Ajinkya Rahane struggled in 2018. He played all five Tests but had a best of 81 and made just two fifties.
He didn’t fare much better in Australia later that year, scoring two half-centuries and struggling for runs. His numbers started to raise questions again, but Rahane silenced his critics with runs in West Indies. He made two fifties and a hundred across two Tests in the West Indies and kicked off the World Test Championship nicely for India. However, the series didn’t have a player of the series award, which could have given Rahane some attention had there been one.
He started the championship well and scored runs against South Africa and Bangladesh. His scores, however, continued to go unnoticed as players thrived with Rahane at the other end. For instance, against South Africa, Rohit Sharma made a brilliant 212, which overshadowed Ajinkya Rahane’s 115.
While Ajinkya Rahane continued to be overshadowed by his teammates, the team understood his contributions, which mattered most. He continued to be consistent and did a fair job in New Zealand. He managed 46 in the first Test and did a decent job in a series where the Indian batters struggled. Low scores in the other innings, however, made his contributions go unnoticed again.
While Ajinkya Rahane struggled with low scores and did a brilliant job supporting his team, he came into the spotlight later in 2020. He was announced as the captain after India’s first Test against Australia and had a massive task ahead. With India losing the first Test embarrassingly, getting all-out for 36, Ajinkya Rahane stepped up brilliantly.
He made a superb century in Melbourne and showcased the technique that made him famous overseas early in his career. His century helped India win a Test in Melbourne, but he had low scores again after the century. He didn’t contribute much with the bat at Sydney, but his leadership was exemplary. Ajinkya Rahane didn’t get a big score in Brisbane, but a brief cameo helped India get some momentum in their run-chase.
The numbers, however, were still unimpressive. He continued to be inconsistent statistically, but in reality, made some fair contributions. In one of the more recent Tests at Chennai, Ajinkya Rahane supported Rohit Sharma to help India win a crucial home Test. The win was vital as it allowed India to stay in the running for a spot in the finals this weekend.
The half-century also helped him boost his World Test Championship statistics, as Ajinkya Rahane currently stands as India’s leading run-scorer in the tournament.
While his contributions often go unnoticed, the team and Rahane himself realize the importance of the middle-order batter. With Rohit and Gill aggressive at the top, Pujara defensive, and Pant explosive, Ajinkya Rahane supports Virat Kohli as a batsman who can defend and counter-attack when required.
He has been in a lot of sticky situations and steered India out of trouble beautifully. He is a crucial member of the Indian side, and despite questions from outside, the squad understands his value. The numbers are also not as bad as they seem, and with Ajinkya Rahane’s record overseas, strong performance can be expected in the coming days.
With the finals, and five Tests in India, Ajinkya Rahane will have a crucial role to play and has an opportunity to show how his supporting act is essential for the Indian side.