The inconsistent selection policy has been a matter of concern in terms of determining the faith of few Indian benched players. The most heart wrenching among all is the presence of Ajinkya Rahane in the above-mentioned coterie where he had been a perennial benchwarmer for over 12 months until Virender Sehwag’s axing from the One-Day International squad (ODI) which allowed him a longer stint. Post Sehwag’s axing, Rahane, however, threw a promising start at Rajkot against England but very soon he was tangled into a trap of two consecutive failures.
Rahane is one of those players who certainly possesses the required caliber as he always lives up to his potential in demanding circumstances. But in contrary to that, he wasn’t at all rewarded with chances. Even after launching himself with an impressive push, he fell into the reduction of makeshift option where his presence sometimes got drafted in inconsequential games in a series and then benched thereafter. Such sort of treatment could easily dent any player’s confidence likewise apprehending some disturbing thoughts of believing every opportunity to be his last or else assuming a good performance might not be enough to hold on to a spot.
During the tour of England, which later on turned out to be a stormy one for cricketing history in 2011, Rahane was able to place himself among one of the few to steal a positive emergence from that stint, as a result of which he clinched a spot in the one-day series. He appeared to be a part of the highest level and wasn’t overawed by the conditions or the situation. The team itself was struggling, but there was a young man who fearlessly took on the bowlers, presenting hope for a better tomorrow. A few months down the line – during England’s visit to India, he reassured the selectors with another encouraging display. However, the five wise men and the think-tank had other ideas to go by.
When the West Indies arrived in late 2011 for an ODI series, Rahane found himself sitting out. Consider this, his last three scores prior to that series read 91, 20 and 42. He had to make way for Sehwag who was coming into the one-day squad after quite some time. The opportunity did come Rahane’s way though – in the final game of the series – after India had sealed the contest. What happened was anticlimactic as he was dismissed for naught.
Then came the ultimate game of fate. Manoj Tiwary scored a maiden ton in that game against the West Indies at Chennai and won a berth for the tri-series in Australia. Poor Rahane lost out as Sachin Tendulkar returned to the side. What could be figured out from this was that a lot of importance was given to that one single game in Chennai and that some spots were unquestionable. Tiwary wasn’t lucky either as he had to wait for months for his next game.
To some extent, it was almost as if the two men shared their destiny. Both Rahane and Tiwary got their next chances in the ODI series against Sri Lanka. While Tiwary went on to have a good time, Rahane got a solitary outing, that too in a dead rubber. The Mumbai batsman’s next match was also an inconsequential encounter against Pakistan at Delhi.
With such opportunities coming few and far in between, it is clear that Rahane has been unsettled. Especially, chewing over the recently ended stint of West Indies, Rahane had been the player to watch out for. His performance, which comprised of a magnificent ton (103 off 104 balls) in those situations, simply left us awestruck. Post the denouement of West Indies tour, the Indian skipper, Virat Kohli, himself Threw a recognition to Rahane’s presence in the team. This somehow bestowed the ever sought balance in the team as he seems to be comfortable with any position of batting, be it next to the opening stand or in the middle order, he has always been right on the money.
“Jinx (Rahane) has been a part of the ODI set-up for a while and we all felt he had a great potential at the top of the order. He is always there as the third opening batsman. In this series, he has batted really well in both the games. He paced his innings well. He is such an established Test batsman and wants to make it count in the shorter format. I think he has started taking a lot less pressure on himself and has begun enjoying his game more. He can only go up from here and improve in this format,” Kohli added.
Reiterating how Rahane adds balance to the team, Kohli said, “He can be that floater for us in the middle-order. He might allow you to play an extra bowler in a big tournament like the 2019 World Cup. There are very few people who can perform two roles for the team. He can open and he can play in the middle-order. So I see him providing more balance to us as a side, in terms of allowing us to take an extra bowling option when he is there,” Kohli explained.
To come good, Rahane needs time and a long run in the side. He might take time to recover, but it is important to invest in him with an eye, for the future, on a batsman whose talent is never in doubt. The Indian selectors are known to commit inexplicable gaffes. Perhaps, it is time some sanity creeps in. Is that asking too much?
Belonging to the cohort of cricket fanatics, Ranojoy Middya is an assiduous cricketer who aspires to live life in purview of the cricketing world; penning his line of thinking at present and living up to it in the near future.