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Friday, Nov 22, 2019

IPL 2019: Rahane’s road to redemption starts as Rajasthan Royals face Mumbai Indians

IPL 2019: Out of the players tried at No. 4 by the India team management since the 2015 World Cup, Rahane has the third best average of 46.88, scoring 375 in nine matches.

cricket Updated: Apr 20, 2019 08:34 IST
Abhishek Paul
Abhishek Paul
Hindustan Times, Jaipur
Rajasthan Royals cricketer Ajinkya Rahane plays a shot during the 2019 Indian Premier League.
Rajasthan Royals cricketer Ajinkya Rahane plays a shot during the 2019 Indian Premier League.(AFP)
         

Ajinkya Rahane never comes across as a loud character. More than animated expressions, he has always chosen to place his bets on a quiet steely resolve to take him through. But in an increasingly outspoken Indian dressing room, such silent characters are in danger of being overlooked.

Out of the players tried at No. 4 by the India team management since the 2015 World Cup, Rahane has the third best average of 46.88, scoring 375 in nine matches. His strike rate of 93.75 is also better than MS Dhoni, Dinesh Karthik and Ambati Rayudu — all of whom are either in the squad or is a standby.

However, on Monday, when the World Cup squad was announced, Rahane was not even mentioned in passing. Perhaps the writing was on the wall from the time he failed to draw impressive numbers in South Africa early 2018.

That was the last ODI series he had played. Rahane went on to compete for India A as well as in the domestic tournaments but an ODI comeback never materialised. To top his woes is the current lean patch as Rajasthan Royals captain.

Except for a 70 against Sunrisers Hyderabad, Rahane is yet to score big. What’s more hurting has been the nature of dismissals. Once the torchbearer of proper technique, schooled by none other than Rahul Dravid early into his career, Rahane has looked vulnerable with his shot selection this IPL.

In Royals’ previous match against Kings XI Punjab, Rahane top-edged a slower ball from pacer Arshdeep Singh. That Singh was constantly maintaining the line outside off-stump seemed to have eluded Rahane’s attention completely. Ultimately, Royals lost the match by 12 runs, chasing 183. It was not a one-off incident.

The match before that, Rahane went for a slog-sweep against Mumbai Indians’ Krunal Pandya and was caught after mistiming it. Then, against Kolkata Knight Riders, Rahane missed the line of delivery from Prasidh Krishna while going for a flick and was trapped leg-before.

READ: RR Predicted XI against MI: One big change expected

Only Rahane can explain this sudden slide but Sanjay Manjrekar perhaps put it aptly. “Have felt this for a while now, Ajinkya Rahane is living in denial about his batting form. Once he accepts that there is a problem with his batting, then only can the repair work begin,” the former India batsman wrote on his Twitter handle.

Rahane’s lean run has reflected on his team’s performance too. In eight matches, Royals have lost six and are seventh in the eight-team table. With a tally of 201 in eight matches, Rahane’s average is just over 25. With the other batsmen failing too, Royals are faced with a major batting crisis.

Apart from Jos Buttler at the top and Sanju Samson in patches, none of the other batsmen have applied themselves to score big. For Rahane, time for a turnaround in the race to the playoffs is running out. To kickstart that process against Mumbai Indians — a side led by India’s vice-captain at the World Cup — could be the perfect statement of intent to begin with.