With passing time, Ajinkya Rahane has slowly but surely transformed into a complete and versatile batsman who can bat at any position and in any format irrespective of the situation. He has grown into India’s most consistent, steady and reliable batsman overseas and at home. He is also a livewire in the field.
He began his journey with the Ranji Trophy. The Ranji Trophy, despite losing its value in recent years, remains the breeding ground for Indian cricket’s young stars. Rahane got his opportunity playing for Mumbai at an age of 19 and scored a century on his first-class debut.
There was no looking back for him. He was one of the top run getters for Mumbai in the 2008/09 season with 1089 runs. He has scored over 1000 runs in three of his first five seasons in the Ranji Trophy.
Despite being a specialist in the longer format of the game, Rahane got his first break for India against England in 2011, when he went all guns blazing and scored 61 off 39 deliveries and dominated the English attack in a T20 international. In November 2011, Rahane finally broke into the Test side, but had to wait till March 2013 to get his debut. It wasn’t one of the more memorable debuts, as he managed a total of only eight runs, as a consequence of which, he found himself out of the Test team for the upcoming series against the West Indies.
The turning point in Rahane’s career came in the two match Test series in South Africa. Rahane tackled the likes of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, putting a heavy price on his wicket. He averaged 69 during the series.
Just a couple months later, he scored his maiden Test century in international cricket against New Zealand at Wellington, thus breaking on to the cricketing scene. It was an exceptional innings as Rahane came in to bat when India were in a spot of bother, but then he went on to score 118 to put India in a strong position.
Rahane’s career graph has only consistently risen after that. Subsequently, he has managed to score centuries at iconic grounds like Lord’s & MCG. His centuries in New Zealand, England & Australia (not to forget his 96 in South Africa), all point to his completeness as a batsman, a class act who can not only play well on the spin friendly pitches in India but also has the talent to middle the ball on the bouncy tracks abroad . And all this has come about in just 22 Test matches. Not only the numbers, but the circumstances under which these runs have been accumulated show the character of the man.
In India’s second Test during their tour of England in 2014, Rahane fought alone for India on a pitch which favoured the bowlers. He faced the English bowlers with immense confidence and concentration and went on to score an extraordinary century while the wickets fell like dominoes at the other end. He became the second Indian to score a century in his maiden Test innings at Lord’s and helped India win the test. During the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne, Rahane and Virat Kohli weaved an epic 262-run partnership for the fourth wicket with Rahane contributing 147 of those in 171 deliveries. He also played a contrasting innings in the fourth Test of the same tour at Sydney, showing technique,patience and great temperament which helped India save the match.
Speaking of records, India has never lost a test when Rahane has scored a century. He became the fifth Indian batsman to score a century in both innings of a Test when he scored 127 and 100* against South Africa at the Feroz Shah Kotla in 2015.
Rahane not only brings value to the side with his batting, but also with his fielding. He is terrific in the field with a safe pair of hands and has many a times managed to hit the stumps directly at crucial moments. He once stopped the Proteas, who were well on their course for a record run-chase in the fourth innings, by running Faf Du Plessis out. In August 2015, he grabbed 8 catches which is a record for most catches in an innings.
Rahane is widely praised and appreciated for his batting technique, discipline, and commitment to the game, and is often compared with the likes of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman because of his serene, solid and elegant batting style. In this era of aggressive cricket, Rahane is one of the most soft-spoken guys who goes about his job quietly and lets his bat do the talking. His game is built around the virtues of good technique, patience at the crease and timing the ball. He is, without a doubt, one of the rising stars of Indian cricket, but also a silent assassin, reducing the opponents to crumbles, patiently, one ball at a time.