The prospect of playing a Test in front of his home crowd at the Wankhede Stadium on Friday – after an eight-and-a-half year Test career – should have got Rahane excited. Instead, the Mumbaikar is staring at a future as gloomy as the Mumbai weather was on Wednesday.
Conspiracy theorists may blame the previous regime of India skipper Virat Kohli and ex-coach Ravi Shastri for denting his confidence after they dropped him for the first two Tests in South Africa in Jan 2018. But if his career is at the crossroads now, Rahane must blame himself alone. The long period of success that he enjoyed as a reliable middle-order batsman at No. 5 is history. In the 16 Tests that he has played in the last two years, Rahane averages just 24.39, with one hundred and two fifties.
In the 21 innings from 12 Tests he has played against Australia, England and New Zealand this calendar year, he has looked short of confidence. In eight innings in this period, he has failed to reach double figures. His only scores of significance have been 37 at Brisbane, 67 against England at Chepauk, 49 against New Zealand in the World Test Championship Final at Southampton, 61 against England at Lord’s and 35 against New Zealand in the recently-concluded Test at Green Park, Kanpur.
Rahane’s overall average for the year so far is a measly 19.57. Many say that he’s still living off his 12th and last century, a classy 112 which shaped India’s incredible win in the Melbourne Test last December.
“There’s something wrong with his foot movement. He is committing too much on the front foot, which is why he is getting out LBW or being caught in the slips. The same problem had happened with Sanjay Manjrekar years back, when he lost his form. Maybe it’s due to the fact that he is stressed mentally due to lack of form,” says someone who has observed him closely since he was a teenager.
“I would certainly not even think of dropping Ajinkya and/or Pujara at this stage. Both have been tested over the years. Even Virat Kohli and Rahul Dravid went through a lean patch, Ajinkya isn’t the first one,” former India batsman and ex-chief selector Sandeep Patil told TOI on Wednesday.
At this stage of his career, when he is 33, Rahane knows that there could be no coming back if he fails again. All he got at Kanpur in the first Test against New Zealand was 35 and 4, though he did look impressive in the first innings. The team management, though, continues to back him. After coach Rahul Dravid, it was the turn of bowling coach Paras Mhambrey to offer the beleaguered batsman full support. The former India pacer made it clear that the team was also backing another batsman struggling big time for runs – Cheteshwar Pujara
“I think both Rahane and Pujara have enough experience behind them. They have played enough cricket and we also know as a team that they are one inning away from coming back into form. As a team, everyone is behind them and backing them. We know the value they bring to the team. They have played enough cricket to understand what is expected from them,” Mhambrey said.
It’s no surprise that Rahane has full support of ‘The Wall’ when he needs it badly. In 2012, it was Dravid who got the right-hander to play for Rajasthan Royals, giving Rahane’s white-ball career a huge dose of oxygen.
While the new regime is expectedly backing Rahane for now, one wouldn’t blame the national selectors – set to pick the team for South Africa in a day or two – if they run out of patience with him and look at options for the forthcoming tour of South Africa.
The closest Rahane came to be playing a Test at Wankhede was in December 2016 against England, but a freak injury – he fractured his finger while taking throwdowns – ruled him out of the Test at the last minute.
Can he vindicate the faith of those who still believe in him, or will his first ‘home Test’ prove to be his ‘farewell’ game as well?
We are now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@TechiUpdate) and stay updated with the latest Technology headlines.
For all the latest Sports News Click Here