When Ajinkya Rahane captained India for the last time in a test against Australia in March 2017, he was at that stage of his career where he could do little wrong. Launched to the lead in the final decisive match of an intensely fought streak following injury to Virat Kohli, the Mumbai player led India to an impressive victory. He beat aggressively and captain cunningly, impressing the experts with his men handling and tactical awareness.
Just when everyone expected his position on the team to be an absolute certainty, his career took a bumpy road. Some of the situations were harsh and would have led him to wonder “why me”?
That shaky phase began in January 2018. Despite an impressive overseas record, Rahane was barred from the first two tests in South Africa, Cape Town and Centurion, India lost both. They won third in Johannesburg, after being belatedly recalled.
He was ignored for the 2019 World Cup, not even considered as a replacement for injury despite India’s struggle to find a number 4. Rahane also had a bad spell in the IPL that preceded the World Cup after Rajasthan Royals he fired him as skipper mid-season. Things have not improved despite the move to Delhi Capitals. In a fight for positions, the oldest player was left to perform the duties of 12th man in the first half of the 2020 IPL. And there was half a century in the nine games he ultimately played.
Without even analyzing whether he deserved those fights or how good a player is, one thing can be affirmed: Rahane’s sincerity and respect for the game even in those difficult times. For his coach Pravin Amre, a former Indian hitter, the game rewarded him for these two qualities in Australia.
“It is an example of respect for the game at all times. Even when not a member of the Delhi Capitals squad, coach Ricky Ponting mentioned his work ethic and commitment to the game; it may be that sometimes God gives you back. When he wasn’t on the team, he pushed himself and respected the game, this is very crucial. For 13 tests, he was in the reserves before he had the opportunity in the Indian team, so many players came from behind and played (I can report this because I was 12th man for 11 tests). It wasn’t an easy journey for him; it was very tiring to be in this position, ”Amre said.
Amre refers to the 32-year stint as a substitute skipper in Australia following Kohli’s return home on paternity leave. Saturday morning will be a proud moment for Rahane, who should wipe out many of the pain he has suffered over the past three seasons. There is no grander stage in world cricket than the historic Melbourne Cricket Ground. Going out to throw the Indian blazer is every cricketer’s ultimate dream. It can be said, it is his favorite place in Australia. He played one of his best shots here, scoring 147 on his first visit in 2014, when he dominated a 262-run fourth wicket grandstand with Kohli (169). Even in the one-dayers, Rahane’s best inning in the 2015 World Cup came to the MCG, 79 out of 60 balls against South Africa.
“It’s a proud moment for me at the helm of India, obviously it’s a great opportunity, also a responsibility but I don’t want to take any pressure. I think what I want to do is get back to my team. So the focus isn’t on me, it’s just about the team and how we want to do well as a team. We are focusing on that, ”said the mid-range hitter.
The leadership role, however, could not have come to Rahane at a more challenging time. While Kohli’s absence left a big hole in the serve, Mohammed Shami’s injury upset the balance of the bowling lineup. The way he arranges his resources, the effects of the changes to the bowling alley and the positions on the field will be closely followed.
Amre says Rahane has demonstrated his leadership in Dharamsala. “It’s not the first time he’s done it. In the 2017 series we were one less, then he played well in Bengaluru… It was a home series, but the pressure was there and it was reduced to the final match. He led the team, won the game and the series. It was a unique match, while this time he knows he will lead almost the entire series, “said Amre.
For Rahane, the lesson he took from Test 2017 was the importance of “supporting your instinct as a captain, staying calm under pressure, just supporting your methods that I really focus on.”
Rahane is known for his calm demeanor. Ishant Sharma described him as a “bowler captain” in an interview with ESPNcricinfo on Wednesday.
ISSUE OF THE STRIKE RATE
In that match, India chased a low total of the fourth inning and lost two early wickets. Rahane counterattacked with an unbeaten 38 out of 27 balls to fix the game and the series. In fact, Rahane changing his approach to batting is also seen as a reason for his recent lean phase. In the test series in New Zealand earlier this year, he spent a lot of time on the crease but couldn’t force the pace. His strike rate in the four innings was 33.33 (46 out of 127 balls), 38.67 (29 out of 75), 25.93 (7 out of 27) and 20.93 (9 out of 43). On the 2014-15 Australia tour, the strike rate was 63.54.
After touring New Zealand, former Indian skipper Dilip Vengsarkar pointed out that Rahane was shaking his club too much in the backlift. Although he didn’t get many runs, coming out playing his shots, he was fluent in the IPL and Adelaide’s first inning (42) after his century in a warm-up match.
Comparisons are inevitable with Kohli’s leadership style. Amre said: “He’s like John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg, two different personalities but both giving you the best results. In the end, they will both make the decisions the team wants. We can’t ask Rahane to become Kohli or ask Kohli to become Rahane. ”
His challenge will be huge at the MCG, after India was defeated for the lowest test score of 36 not in Adelaide. “When you represent India, you are like a soldier. It’s a situation like Kargil, the opponents are on top and it’s an uphill task. They should always remember what our soldiers did; that kind of attitude is needed, ”Amre said.
“Success and failure are part of the game, but the approach will have to be strong: the media will be key, the crowd will be against you but you have to support your skills, especially the batting unit after what they did in the game. last tour and achieved a historic victory. “