While Virat Kohli stole the limelight, India’s record total --- they became the first team to get three 600-plus totals in three successive matches --- wouldn’t have been possible without the knocks of Ajinkya Rahane and Wriddhiman Saha. (HIGHLIGHTS | SCORECARD)
The two are making a comeback from injury and probably were under immense pressure to perform. As replacements, Parthiv Patel (for Saha) and Karun Nair (for Rahane) had done enough to merit place in the playing XI. But the team persisted with them and they performed.
Rahane, who made 82, shared a 222-run partnership with Kohli whereas Saha’s century provided the late impetus that India needed to get close to 700. Importantly, Saha helped Kohli get to his double as he pushed him to review a leg-before decision that had gone against him. Kohli was in the 180s then.
The two, however, need to thank their skipper and the team management for keeping faith in them. On the eve of this Test, Kohli had said the team management will back players who are returning from injury. “Two years of Rahane’s hard work can’t be overlooked,” he had said when asked if Karun Nair will get a look-in.
Saha admitted team’s backing plays a major role. “It’s a great plus for the players. Because after an injury hiatus when one makes a comeback, if you are clearly told that as and when you recover you will be back in the team, that individual gets more motivated and it reflects in your performance,” said Saha after close of play on the second day.
It was perhaps this freedom that allowed Saha to play freely and take on spinner Taijul Islam and even give Mushfiqur Rahim a stumping chance which he missed. “Virat would always say ‘Play your natural game. If you feel you can hit the ball, go for it’. That’s why I tried playing that shot but Virat said that it’s not a problem. If you again get a chance, hit it. He always gives you confidence,” added Saha.
When Rahane had walked in Thursday evening, Kohli did the bulk of scoring, relieving the Mumbai batsman of any pressure. Soon Rahane, who had worked his way slowly, gained in confidence and by the end of day’s play he was scoring at a strike rate of 75.
On Friday, when he got a life, Virat walked up to Rahane for a chat. It’s unknown what transpired between them but two deliveries later, Rahane slog swept left-arm spinner Shakib al Hasan to square leg boundary. There was no hesitation in playing across the line and it seemed Virat had given him the license to do that. It perhaps shows the comfort zone Virat and Anil Kumble’s boys are in and that is reflecting in the performance.