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Cricket World Rewind: #OnThisDay - Ajinkya Rahane is born - all grace and elegance

India's Ajinkya Rahane
©Reuters

June 6, 1988 - While Rahane averages more than 45 in away Test matches with 7 centuries and 15 half-centuries, only 4 of his 11 Test tons have come at home.

 

Most cricketers struggle on tour. It is quite understandable for a player who has been brought up on particular type of wickets to take some time to adjust when faced with a totally different set of conditions.

For instance, a player who has been bred on the quick and bouncy pitches of Australia will find it hard to tackle the slow and low dust bowls of the subcontinent. Likewise, for the players of the subcontinent, touring South Africa or England, with plenty of swing to counter, is never easy to negotiate.

However, for Ajinkya Rahane, this has never been the case. In fact, he has blossomed on tours where conditions are considered difficult for batting. Some of his most memorable knocks include the 103 in the first innings at Lord's in 2014, which took India to their first win at Lord's after 28 years. The same year, Rahane struck 147 in Melbourne in a fine 262-partnership with Virat Kohli in the second match on the India tour of Australia.

In 2013, Rahane showed his class against a South African bowling line-up that consisted of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel and Jaques Kallis. The elegant right-hander scored an unbeaten half-century in the first innings and 96 in the second innings, looking a class apart.

 

 

Having been dropped for the first two games for Rohit Sharma, Rahane made 48 on a challenging pitch at Johannesburg where balls were shooting off from nowhere, guiding India to a rare victory in South Africa in the last match of the series in 2018.

While Rahane averages more than 45 in away Test matches with 7 centuries and 15 half-centuries, only 4 of his 11 Test tons have come at home. His average in home conditions also drops below 40. This puts him in a distinguished league of batsmen who average more away than at home alongside Graeme Smith, Stephen Fleming, Ken Barrington and Arthur Moris.

Rahane, a black belt in Karate, was given a fair run in ODI cricket as well and did play some eye-catching knocks. But, it was a case of a cracker which burst before its expected expiry.

In fact, before Rohit Sharma, India had invested in Rahane for the opener's role. He played 54 ODI innings as an opener in which he averaged 36.5 at a strike rate of 77.23. But, once the team got an excellent opening pair in Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma, starting the 2013 Champions Trophy, Rahane found them too hard to dislodge.

Although his chances of making a comeback to ODI cricket seem distant with a slew of fresh talent already on the horizon, Rahane has played some white-ball knocks worth remembering, not least his 91 against England at Mohali in 2011, 106 against England at Birmingham in 2014 and a quick-fire 79 in the 2015 World Cup that took India to their first victory over South Africa in a World Cup match.

Rahane has been among the cricketers whom the Indian selectors have tried for the leadership role. He was appointed the Indian captain on the tour of Zimbabwe in 2015 in both ODIs and and T20Is. In mid-2016, Rahane was appointed as India's vice-captain for the tour of West Indies and retains the designation in Tests.

The Mumbaikar had been going through an extended slump in form, having gone two years without scoring a Test century. The batsman had brought up some crucial half-centuries but the three-figure mark had eluded him. In August, last year Rahane broke the jinx with 102 against West Indies. The batsman seems to have bounced back to form after that knock with four half-centuries and one century in his following eight matches.

At 31, Rahane still has five years of international cricket ahead of him if he can sustain his regained form. This will also come as an opportunity to better his Test average of 42.88.

 

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