Ajinkya Rahane has been one of the most consistent performers when it comes to the Indian Premier League but despite picking him up last year, Delhi Capitals haven't shown enough faith in the seasoned campaigner. And now just after few failures, there are strong demands coming in to drop him.
As much as we don't want popular social media opinions to overpower factual and logical premises, it generally happens in the internet age where outrage garners more eyeballs than substance. When it comes to typecasting players in certain molds, it is one thing we all have been guilty of doing some time or the other in the past. For me, there was no way a certain Rahane could play over Shaw because he's too slow, lacks intent and can't accelerate like a T20 innings demands.
Ajinkya 'Underrated' Rahane
But when I started digging deeper, I realized, he's far better batsman than what he is made of, as our judgment also gets clouded easily, at times. Since 2012, the classical right-hander has aggregated two seasons each over 400 and 500 runs respectively. Thrice he has made over 350 runs a season while in his worst season, he made 339 runs, which go on to exhibit how solid a performer he has been in IPL, over the years.
His strike-rate has been an issue but he has played the role of an anchor to perfection, playing out the first few overs where fast bowlers get something off the deck. And moreover, last season, he really took his strike-rate to the next level, which has been a constant point of criticism for Rahane. He made 393 runs at 32.75 with a strike-rate of 137.89, which was excellent. In fact, his strike-rate was better than the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Prithvi Shaw, Quinton de Kock, Rohit Sharma, and Shane Watson, to name a few openers from the other sides. Surprised, eh?
It took starts of 4, 0, and 0 for Delhi Capitals and a string of single-digit-scores from Prithvi Shaw to dump him. Now, Rahane did fail opening for the first time this season against KKR, but mostly, he has batted out of position and after the kind of hit his confidence must have taken, being made to sit on the sidelines after having as good a season as he had last year, improving his strike-rate greatly, putting up consistent performances yet traded from RR and not picked in starting XI despite him being a seasoned campaigner. Good things take time, and Delhi Capitals if they have to match Mumbai Indians and start winning titles, will need to back players like Rahane than always backing Shaw, who is more hype than performances in the shortest format, so far.
Prithvi 'Inconsistent' Shaw
Prithvi Shaw, fresh from 2018 U-19 World Cup triumph, was promising in subsequent IPL, but he had a below-par last season where all he averaged was 22.06 despite getting backed all the way. He had six single-digit scores and could cross 20-run-mark only five times out of 16 games. And this year as well, after starting with a bang, he fizzled out, making scores of 7, 0, 0, 4 and 19, getting back to his trademark inconsistent run, and is averaging a poor 20.90 after 10 games. Shaw has a glaring weakness against fast bowlers as he doesn't come in line with the delivery, as his back foot stays rooted in the crease and pacers exploit that with the new ball. And yes, he's a big liability in the field as well.
In comparison, Rahane has made a name for himself with his great back-foot game which enables him to play fast bowlers brilliantly. The right-hander averages a whopping 87.8 against right-arm-fast bowlers opening the batting in IPL and has got out only 6 times, having played 411 deliveries. Shaw has been dismissed 6 times in merely 120 deliveries as he averages 27 against them. Rahane averages 36.7 against left-arm fast bowlers. For Shaw, he hasn't faced adequate enough deliveries to derive conclusions.
With Shikhar Dhawan already in full flow, Rahane can take time and solidify the opening partnership and that also helps DC to get the best out of the players like Shreyas Iyer, whom you ideally want against spinners than fast bowlers early on, which has been the case with Shaw being a walking wicket. It also helps Delhi promote players like Pant, Hetmyer and Stoinis to get and don the power hitting role if the team isn't on back foot with early hiccups. Not to forget, Rahane is a great reader of the game and is an incredible fielder, so he adds a lot of layers to the side.
Delhi should take a cue from the results they got from backing Dhawan. He prospered after being given a proper backing than insecurity which the side has filled in Rahane by not believing him like they do with a certain Shaw, Pant or Dhawan. Delhi need to remember that "form is temporary but class is permanent" and should back Jinx to come good in the upcoming games.