Why India need Rahane against Australia

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Image Courtesy: © BCCI

Why India need Rahane against Australia

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Gourav Pilania


In a format which worships sheer power and bludgeoning force, Ajinkya Rahane is just too noble a man. Even after being one of the mainstays in both the Test and the ODIs, Rahane is still in the wilderness in the shortest format. As India go head-to-head today against Australia with a virtual knock-out on the offering, the Men in Blue need Ajinkya Rahane at the top of the order.

Rahane has made a name for himself in International cricket after some stellar performances in the past year and a half. It's not just in the Tests or the ODIs, the Mumbaikar also finished as the second highest run-scorer in the last edition of Indian Premier League. He hasn't done much wrong, yet, he's been struggling for his slot in the team.

With the Dhawan-Sharma combo failing game after game, it's tough to fathom the logic behind not giving Rahane a start. Rahane belongs to a rare breed of batsmen, who reflect the astute and perspicuous nature of the game. Although he belongs to a traditional stream of batting, the 27-year-old has proved time and again that he certainly warrants a place in the maverick version of the game.

But, he isn't nearly perfect. Some say he stalls things down, while other say he doesn't have enough gears to up the ante. Although the criticism about Rahane’s game holds some merit, he has shown his talent with a number of innings in the purists' version of the game.

His 96 against South Africa in the second innings of the second Test match at Durban, back in 2013 was a classic knock. He couldn't have played it any better. He stood firm most of the time as the South African fast bowlers failed to dismantle his temperament. That cut for six, which took Rahane from 90 to 96, showed the attacking intent that rests inside the Mumbaikar.

For some, he is a reminder of the classic game of Rahul Dravid and V V S Laxman, for others like ex-Aussie captain Steve Waugh, the 27-year old has a compact technique similar to that of fellow Mumbaikar Sachin Tendulkar. The funny thing here is that all three stalwarts weren't suited to the T20 version. It's always fun to tag the players, but it catches up on them more often than not.

Ajinkya's unflashy nature is a major reason why he gets compared to those greats. When the whole team crumbled down to the James Anderson show at the Lords in 2014, his much-needed century just came at the right time, and it surely couldn't have come at a better place. When he perished finally, he got the applause from both sets of fans.

The classic knocks of Rahane are not limited to the longer version of the game. He also smashed six 4s in an over against Sreenath Aravind of Royal Challengers Bangalore back in 2012, but who can forget his 79-run knock against South Africa in the 2015 World Cup. It changed the stereotype that one doesn't always need to slog in order to hit boundaries. His much-needed stability is exactly what Indian cricket team needs, but somehow stops just short of wanting.

In a batting-friendly format like the T20s, the openers need to produce staggering figures day in day out to stay in the team, if they don't, the doors are always open. Indian team's batting has been the weakest link in this tournament, and it's a surprising sight for everyone to watch Rahane warming the bench. The 27-year old is also a brilliant fielder and will give Ravindra Jadeja and Suresh Raina a run for their money when it comes to the fielding. His eight-catch record against Sri Lanka, back in 2015 will silence any doubters when it comes to his catching.

In the legend's final match, Rahane was the 12th man against West Indies, in a match where not just fans but even cricketers were chanting “Sachin.... Sachin”. Amid all that, Tendulkar told Rahane that, "You may not have noticed, but I have been watching you for a long time. Your attitude, when you are sitting on the bench or serving drinks, has been praiseworthy. Keep up your work ethic and hard work. These have brought you till here; they will take you further ahead”. That sums up his class.

His temperament is unfathomable and there is an enshrouded charisma in him. After two decades of seeing Dravid and Laxman bail the whole team out, the Indian cricket team need a saviour, and they have a ready-made one sitting in their dressing room.

The equation for tomorrow is simple - India need to win if they want to go through. It's hight time for Dhoni to tinker with the “tried and tested” team and drop an under-performing Dhawan. That will pave the way for Rahane, who has been warming the bench for the first three matches in the World T20. In a game of such massive magnitude, the captain needs to play a master-stroke, and this might very well prove to be the one.

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