Batting for Rahane at No. 4 until the 2019 World Cup
The No. 4 spot is one of the most crucial positions in the batting order. For starters, it requires someone who can anchor the innings if a couple of wickets go down early. Secondly, if the openers get off to a good start, explosive abilities are needed to capitalize on the foundation that has been laid.
What India are looking for in their No 4 is a combination of the two. However, of late, too many players have been tried and discarded without giving them an extended run. Virat has finally budged from his stand that Ajinkya Rahane is the 'third opener' and the Mumbaikar, for his part, has not disappointed.
Now that Rahane has delivered the goods in the 1st ODI against South Africa, it is only ideal that India stick with him. Here are 5 reasons which support the argument that Ajinkya Rahane should be India's permanent no 4 in ODIs till the 2019 World Cup.
Running between wickets
In the middle overs, with the field spread wide and four men patrolling the ropes, it is not easy to score a boundary that often. This is where the running between wickets becomes so essential. This, coupled with an odd boundary, keeps the run rate ticking. It is only after five overs or so that you realize that 25-30 runs have already been added to the scoreboard without any risk being taken.
A champion exhibition of the same was on display during the 189-run partnership between Kohli and Rahane in Durban. Interestingly, there were occasions when Rahane was pushing Virat for an extra run. This transferred momentum back in favour of India after they lost two early wickets.
Compact technique and even temperament
Belonging to the long lineage of Mumbai batsmen like Dilip Vengsarkar, Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar who are well-known for their flawless technique, Rahane carries the same qualities. He plays close to the body and meets the ball under his eyes.
The eyes of the 29-year-old are dead still on the point of contact with the ball. There have been many with the finest of techniques and yet have failed to make their mark. What makes Rahane special is that he remains calm and collected even in adverse circumstances.
The masterful manner in which he approached the chase in the 1st ODI is a fine example of his serene demeanour.
Accomplished against pacers
After Chris Morris failed to break the partnership between Kohli and Rahane in Kingsmead, he took to the age old technique of unsettling the batsmen. He said a few words to Rahane, making him aware that the ball was coming sharply into him. Result: the last two balls of that over went for a six and a four respectively.
The six came off a cross-batted shot sailing over long on. The boundary came off a head-high short pitched delivery in the form of a ramp shot over third man.
These two shots are a specimen of Rahane's batting prowess against pace. He can play well both off the back foot and the front foot. He not only has an awe inspiring drive down the ground but is equally up to the task when it comes to the cut and pull shot
Making No 4 his own
Realizing the team's weakness at no 4, Kohli said at the pre-match press conference, "We have explored many options in the last few months. India don't have too many series, or too much time left before the World Cup, so they will want to explore all the options before the World Cup.
I had said earlier that Ajinkya Rahane would be looked at as a third opener, but that situation can change because he has batted at No. 4 in a World Cup (in 2015) before. These conditions are such that you get to play fast bowling throughout the innings so he becomes a strong candidate for no 4.
The likes of Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, KL Rahul, and Yuvraj Singh have not been able to make the no 4 spot their own. On the contrary, India's Test vice-captain Rahane has struck consecutive half centuries in his last five appearances at no 4 with scores of 79, 50, 89, 87 and 47.
2019 World Cup in England
The 2019 World Cup is to be held in England. It is common knowledge that the ball wobbles around there under cloudy conditions. Matches are set to be held at venues like Birmingham, Bristol and Cardiff, which are known for their swing.
It will not come as a surprise if the top wickets fall early in such challenging conditions. In such a situation, India would need the experience of somebody like Rahane to hold one end and let the youngsters play around him. His experience playing in English conditions will also come in handy for the team.
© Cricket World 2018