Scenes are different, stages are at two opposite ends of one spectrum. And it is highly unlikely that checking the Duleep Trophy scores would have been anywhere close to Ajinkya Rahane’s mind. However, in some way, the two beating hearts were in search of that one good day. One, yes ONE.
Alur Cricket Ground can pass as a peripheral Country Oval, with a central pavilion where one can catch three matches at the same time. The beauty of it not only lies in the orientation of the three grounds facing each other but also in the non-descript nature of it. There was no rain in the air but then again, there were no spectators to watch the game either.
Almost 14,500 kms from the venue, another match was going on in front of a negligible crowd, and a slightly better TV audience. Antigua’s Sir Vivan Richards Stadium had already lost its past glory and if anything, the memories of those days are slowly fading away. However, two players operating on two different stages had almost similar ambitions.
Three years ago, in Chennai, Karun Nair became only the second Indian batsman after Virender Sehwag to score a Test triple-century but when Ajinkya Rahane was available for selection in India’s very next Test against Bangladesh, Nair was dropped from the team in the pretext of the fact that Rahane is a class batsman and shouldn’t be sitting outside. It was a clear shock to his confidence but Nair ploughed on to make a comeback against Australia, where a combined total of 54 runs ended his hopes straightaway. Although he continued to find a place in the Indian side, life hasn’t been kind to him after that.
For Rahane, the series against Sri Lanka in 2017 saw the beginning of a downfall from where he couldn’t take himself away from. He never lacked the confidence, nor did he lack the effort, but the runs evaded him like the IPL trophy did to Royal Challengers Bangalore. The catastrophic fall from grace was compounded by some worthy contenders knocking the door down. It was lucky that both were still getting selected for as long as they did.
Wander your mind back to October 2018. In a blasting interview with Cricbuzz, Karun Nair blamed the team management for not communicating with him properly about where he stood and why they dropped him suddenly after not giving him a chance to prove his credentials. Rahane, however, was lucky. Apart from odd-drop here and there, he continued to find a place in the Indian team, without any visible amount of runs to show.
Their career needed a push, with the tipping point almost being on the close sight, they stepped up. With India Red losing two early wickets, Nair found a perfect partner in Ankit Kalsi, a player of Cheteshwar Pujara mould, and just when things started to fall in place, Nair was stumped for 99. The cruel fate deserted him once again and the long wait for the magic figure continued.
In Antigua, after Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel reduced India to 25/3, Rahane found him at a situation where notwithstanding his current form, he had to be there. First with Hanuma Vihari and then with Ravindra Jadeja, he buried the demons and took the team on a path of redemption. While he looked set to get past the three-figure mark, things suddenly fell apart and he was dismissed for 81.
Just picture these images. So close yet so far. For Rahane, it was about staying relevant in Indian cricket, and for Nair, it was about taking his stocks up. One was about doing everything for the team and seeing his contribution being hidden, the other was more or less about rising to the occasion, yet staying one run far from the figure that gives any cricketer unbridled joy that nothing else can give. One was about redemption, the other, well, was about not anything different either.
Cue the second innings. They now know that there is unfinished business. It is no more about the team, it was purely about them, for whatever selfish reason one can attribute to, as the duo added runs by a tickle. The eventuality of all had the bearing as it told the story of belief, and most importantly, a new beginning for the duo, who had packed the promise instantly but could never stay there long. The bad form is in the past now. Nair is no more talking about lack of chances in the post-match press conference, nor is Rahane giving a sneak-peak to his belief system and how a century is around the corner.
Whatever happens from here depends on a lot of factors but Rahane and Nair have ensured one thing - they will not have monkeys on their back as the caravan moves on. Life will be a bit simpler when they will turn up for the next game.
Cricket FootBall Kabaddi