Here’s what’s true and cannot be denied. The last that Ajinkya Rahane played for India in the limited-overs set-up, AB De Villiers was still an active player, Hashim Amla hadn’t yet retired, Deepak Chahar had not yet become a regular fixture for India in T20Is, Rishabh Pant was yet to find himself regularly behind the wickets and the Indian women’s cricket team were yet to play the finals of yet another T20 women’s world cup.
A lot has, therefore, gone under the bridge, since February 2018, the last that gritty batsman Ajinkya Rahane wore the bright blues for Team India. Although, in that important game, that took place at the SuperSport Park, at Centurion, Ajinkya Rahane played an important hand.
In what became an easy chase for India, South Africa requiring India to score only 205, not more, Ajinkya Rahane was one of the key innings from India’s contingent, in scoring a watchful 34 off 50 deliveries.
In so doing, the mild-mannered bloke remained not out. But from thereon, we have not seen the Mumbai batsman feature in India’s playing eleven. So what can be the reason for this? What might have happened that Rahane didn’t find himself among the playing eleven of a team that has always respected someone with the values that Rahane brings to the fore- focus, pure determination, and that all-too-precious ability to hold an end and play the sheet anchor role?
Truth is, in some ways, the DNA of the team currently being led by Virat Kohli is one that is of pure youth- isn’t it? KL Rahul, for instance, is 28. Rishabh Pant is all of 22. Meanwhile, guys like Navdeep Saini, Jasprit Bumrah, and Shreyas Iyer are 27, 26, and 25, respectively. In that sense, although a batsman who proved his worth years back, Ajinkya Rahane is nearing 33.
That’s surely not the refreshing or youngest of guys to have in a team, which, frankly speaking, is winning games minus the match-winning experience of a batsman as dependable as Ajinkya Rahane- right?
Moreover, from 87 ODI innings, as on date, Rahane has scored only 3 ODI hundreds- so if the team desires to have not only an experienced but prolific run-maker is Rahane really that guy? Especially in the context of batting behemoths like Rohit, Shikhar, Virat himself and now, Iyer settling in so well in the number 4 role. Moreover, with KL Rahul proving himself to be a specialist batsman who can also keep wickets, there’s already an alternative to Pant, who could be, and as seen in NZ, not always all that regularly played in the eleven.
So what role can Rahane actually play amid a tall order of established run-makers? Another specialist keeping batsman?
Not that his batting average leaves anything to desire because at 35 for someone who’s a lower-order batsman, it is not at all foul of the game’s whopping demands in an age where the bouts of action are nearly relentless.
Yet, here’s what Ajinkya Rahane happened to share in a recent media interaction:
“I think the first plan is to come back in ODI cricket. I don’t generally talk about my records but I think an important factor is my record is actually really good over the last 3-4 years before I was dropped.
Whether it’s opening the batting or at No. 4, my record was very good, my strike rate again was very good. I think my aim is to come back into the ODI set-up. I don’t when the opportunity will come but I have to work hard, I am working really hard on all the aspects. I am really confident about myself. It’s all about having the self-belief and being positive, being fearless.”
That being said, what according to you fans should be the outcome of this decision- bring Rahane in for ODIs as well or let it be? Thankfully, we don’t have to choose, Virat and the honourable selectors have to.