Why Team India needs Ajinkya Rahane

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In praise of the class and consistency of Indian batsman Ajinkya Rahane

No Tattoo. No earring. No flamboyance.
In all the glitz and glamour of international cricket, Ajinkya Rahane has never managed to turn a head towards him for being a colourful character. On the contrary, in a country where cricketers are demi-gods, young Rahane proudly wears his middle-class values on his strong shoulders.
Ajinkya Rahane.Indian Link
He is extremely humble and soft-spoken, hearing his voice only when he appeals from a close-in position. And the only time he has the world in awe of him is when he is batting and sending our pulses racing with strokes that are as beautiful as they are brilliant.
A few years back, youngsters like Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane were tipped to be the rare jewels in team India’s batting crown. Others like Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara too held a lot of promise.
However, on the sheer strength of his performance against every opposition and in all conditions – be it in New Zealand, England, Australia or South Africa – 27-year old Rahane has quietly left the field behind establishing himself as a high quality batsman. And the highlight of his art at the batting crease is the fact that he has got both class and consistency.
Having made his Test debut in March 2013 against Australia in New Delhi, Rahane couldn’t do much in his first outing. However, the Mumbai batsman gave the world glimpses of his latent talent by scoring splendid hundreds in New Zealand, England, Australia and Colombo. Indeed on each occasion he proved to be Team India’s crisis man as he battled adversity in alien territory and came up trumps.
Indeed his century at Lord’s last year was an innings of rare brilliance, one where he countered the moving ball admirably well. Then again, in Australia, the little man with a big heart underlined his prowess against the pace and bounce by smashing a splendid 147 in the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne. This year, Ajinkya Rahane scored his fourth Test hundred abroad when he scored a fine 126 in the heat and dust of Colombo.
Surprisingly, for a player who had excelled all over the word, his Test record at home was simply horrendous. In fact, before the final Test against South Africa in New Delhi, Rahane’s scores in four Tests in India read 7,1,15,2,13 and 9. Surely six failures on the trot would have not only plagued him with self-doubt, but also put the team’s think-tank in a spot of bother in terms of giving him a long rope. However, as they say, form is temporary, but class is permanent.
Ajinkya Rahane.Indian Link
Having returned to the very ground where he made his Test debut in 2013, Rahane made sure he redeemed himself scoring a century in each innings (127 and 100 not out) on a difficult Ferozshah Kotla pitch. In doing so, he not only ended his run drought at home, but he also became the fifth Indian batsman to achieve the rare feat after Vijay Hazare, Sunil Gavaskar, Rahul Dravid and Virat Kohli.
To be sure, many feared Rahane was only good when the ball is bouncing and seaming. That he is no good in Indian conditions, was a label almost put on him. No wonder then that there was more relief than joy when he said, “I am happy that the team management trusted my abilities. I always hoped to get a good score here and I did today.”
Rahane’s first hundred in India showed striking similarity to his debut hundred on the Lord’s green top. On both occasions, his team was struggling. On both occasions, the conditions were challenging. On both occasions, demons needed to be conquered. Like he did at Lord’s, Rahane put in the hard labour to place his side on the brink of win.
After his special innings, Rahane explained how he used Lord’s memories to his advantage in Delhi.
“When we were 138 for six, I was recollecting those (Lord’s) memories. Even at Lord’s, we were 142 for seven. I was just thinking to communicate with other batsmen. Even when (Ravichandran) Ashwin came to bat, I told him, ‘If the ball is there, I will go after it and hit it’. He was really positive from his end. He told me to back my instincts. I had done the same in England. Those memories from Lord’s indeed came handy. I didn’t change anything technically. I just wanted to play close to my body. Patience and determination were the key,” he explained.
Apart from his batting, Rahane is also an exceptionally good fielder in close catching position. In fact, he set a world record by taking eight catches in the Galle Test in Sri Lanka in August 2015.
And yet, the best thing about Ajinkya Rahane is the fact that he epitomises success in a very middle class Indian way. We want our heroes to succeed yet remain humble. Good behaviour is of paramount importance. Worldwide, tantrums and indiscretions are standard issue with superstar sportspersons. BorisBecker sired a baby out of a chance encounter with a girl in a closet. Mike Tyson has served a term for rape. John McEnroe was infamous for his temper.
Indian sportspersons have been a quiet lot by those standards. And here, who can forget Sachin Tendulkar who was a perfect role model for every kid for over two decades balancing his unprecedented success on field by conducting himself with great dignity off it. He was never been found in a drunken brawl, never smashed his car into the façade of a five-star hotel and never held up a flight. If Tendulkar has left his foot prints on the sands of time, young Rahane is gently walking on the same path.
Even while straddling the rarefied world of the celebrity circuit, his ethos remains solidly middle class. If you go through his Twitter account, you will find that, unlike most people, he is not the “selfie” type. The only pictures he shares are those from his training sessions. He is not free bird either, for he dutifully tags his wife, Radhika, in every personal tweet.
He is not a party animal either, instead he is usually cocooned in his own little world which includes his wife and a few close friends.
He doesn’t believe in spending money on lavish cars or building a mansion. Material things don’t attract him as much as doing his bit for the poor and needy. Accordingly, during his spare time, he visits cancer patients. And moved by the plight of farmers in Maharashtra, Rahane recently donated a decent sum.
To be sure, there is a calm to Ajinkya Rahane’s presence at the batting crease and an unhurried elegance in his strokes which has the audience in a grip of delight. Off the field, his reaching out to the needy is to be saluted. Indeed he is an ornament to the game. And life!

Ajay Naidu
Ajay Naidu
Ajay is a freelance cricket writer based in India who travels with the Indian cricket team

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