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India vs England: Ajinkya Rahane needs to find form, composure ahead of Lord’s Test

Ajinkya Rahane’s form will be a big factor in decided Indian cricket team’s fortunes as they gear up for the second Test match against England at Lord’s.

cricket Updated: Aug 06, 2018 19:51 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
N Ananthanarayanan
Hindustan Times, London
India vs England,Ajinkya Rahane,Ajinkya Rahane cricket
India's Ajinkya Rahane in action during their first Test match against England at Edgbaston.(Action Images via Reuters)

Ajinkya Rahane is not someone to whom licking-his-wounds idiom sticks. If India skipper Virat Kohli is all fire, his deputy, who rarely lets on more than a sigh and wan smile, is all ice.

Rahane will be anything but calm after looking clueless in the Edgbaston Test, which India lost by 31 runs in the end.

Anointed India’s go-to man on tough overseas tours, Rahane has, over the last one year, often looked as if he has forgotten all that his skill and steely determination had produced on a cricket field.

READ: India vs England: Trevor Bayliss plotting Virat Kohli’s downfall

In the Edgbaston Test, dominated by bowlers, Rahane could not tackle the swing of Ben Stokes or rookie left-arm all-rounder, Sam Curran.

SHAKY APPROACH

In the first innings, Rahane, troubled by Stokes in a brilliant spell, lost focus and angled the bat to give a catch at third slip. In the second, when India chased a small target, he poked without moving his feet to inside-edge to the keeper. With 15 off 34 deliveries and two off 16, he barely appeared India’s batting insurance overseas.

This performance was in huge contrast to Rahane’s record and precise grasp of English conditions, which he explained 48 hours before the Edgbaston game.

“My mind is in the present, one match at a time. I’m really looking forward to this series.”

“If you think about the result, you put pressure on yourself.”

“More than skills, it’s about our mindset, especially playing here in England, how quickly you adjust and handle the situation.”

“In England, patience is the key… If you’re set, try to play a big innings. If the weather changes, it’s important for the batsman to hold back and respect the bowler, respect the conditions.”

The Test rolled out as Rahane had forecast, only he didn’t turn up.

READ: Virender Sehwag’s tweet on Cheteshwar Pujara reignites selection debate

Rahane has been a pale shadow of the batsman who hit brilliant centuries abroad – 114 in Wellington and 105 at Lord’s in 2014, 147 at Melbourne in early 2015.

As India arrive in London for the second Test starting in the Mecca of cricket on Thursday, Rahane and India will be hoping he finds his feet.

Rahane is known for his horizontal bat shots, neat drives either side of the wicket, and a compact technique which is key to playing abroad. But his game dipped in the home series against Sri Lanka late last year.

He struggled on slow home pitches and his controversial omission in the first two Tests in South Africa, with Rohit Sharma favoured but failing, didn’t help his confidence.

Coming into the third Test at Johannesburg, on a dubious pitch, he made seven in the first innings, but managed 48 in the next. The home misery continued as he was out for 10 as stand-in skipper, in the Afghanistan Test at Bangalore.

Much like he analysed the conditions, Rahane will now have to quickly find ways to plug weaknesses in his game and mindset, which will be crucial if India are to fight back in this five-Test series.

First Published: Aug 06, 2018 19:50 IST