Rahane makes the most of his lucky breaks
Far from certain for the WTC final against Australia, his IPL form with CSK helped. At The Oval, Rahane made lucky breaks count to lead India’s fightback.
Someone once asked, ‘What’s luck got to do with it?’
The succinct answer is a lot. For without luck, Ajinkya Rahane wouldn’t have even been part of the Indian team. Without luck, he would not have survived the lbw call while on 17 against Pat Cummins in the last session on Day 2. Without luck, he would not have been dropped on Day 3.
There are times when things magically seem to come together but the most important aspect of luck is what you make of it. He may have had good fortune but he knew, at this late stage in his career, how to turn those lucky breaks into something more substantial. In the World Test Championship final against Australia on Friday, Rahane’s 89 (129 balls, 11 fours, 1 six) was the difference between India being completely out of it and being able to hang on to the thinnest sliver of hope.
The injuries to Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul and Hanuma Vihari opened the doors for a recall to the Test squad for him but it wouldn’t have mattered unless he had turned in a performance of a lifetime in the IPL. His away record wouldn’t even have come into the picture.
When the no-ball came to his rescue with India on 87/4, he needed to just forget the moment and move ahead. He did just that. With Ravindra Jadeja in attacking mode, Rahane played second fiddle. Not that he couldn’t play shots but at the end of Day 2, he was still batting on 29 off 71 balls. It wasn’t quick, but it was what India needed.
Many of India’s batters had looked to bat outside their crease in a bid to try and upset the length of the Aussie bowlers. But Rahane backed his instinct and his trigger movement took him quite deep in the crease.
Rahane’s away average (40.67) is almost as good as Kohli’s (41.21), and in the past it has been even higher. It is better than Rohit Sharma (30.93), Shubman Gill (34.71) and Cheteshwar Pujara (36.58). It shows that when he is in form, the conditions don’t bother him as much.
India lost KS Bharat early on Day 3 and that is when Rahane decided to up the ante. In the 109-run stand with Shardul Thakur, he scored 59 off 57 balls. He was dropped on 72 just before lunch.
But between those slips, he played the kind of innings that had even Ricky Ponting gushing.
“I said it at the lunch break that when you watch him bat like that you often wonder why he hasn’t been in their team,” said the former Australia skipper. “He has always looked a classy player and he has a pretty solid defence as well. He has been at his best when the team has needed him the most and he repeated that today. It was a good knock. He will now probably have a few more Tests against West Indies to make the Indian selectors answer some strong questions if he makes runs. With Rahul and Iyer coming back, they will probably have some big decisions to make.”
According to CricViz, Rahane played closer to the body in this innings than in any other in his career. His average impact point was 1.52m whereas the rest of the Indian batters were averaging around 2.01m. In this innings, Rahane and Kohli (2.25m) were at either end of the spectrum.
He has always been the man whose position is in danger. The quiet guy; the boring guy. The one who disappoints; the one who gets dropped; the one who deserves to be dropped. These things seemed to weigh on him but the stint at CSK seems to have set him free in a certain sense.
At the nets, Rahane could very well be invisible. He does his thing but he does not draw your attention — not like Kohli or Rohit or Gill, or even Pujara. He coasts, keeps a low profile and does what he needs to and leaves the field. And for much of the pre-match buildup, the only thing we saw from Rahane was a smile and nod of acknowledgment. No words spoken… none needed.
But put India in a spot of bother and a very different Rahane emerges; the other Rahane — the one who makes you wonder why he doesn’t bat in that manner all the time. The sense of timing hasn’t deserted him — it was always the other bits.
Just ahead of the game, India head coach Rahul Dravid had spoken about why Rahane shouldn’t treat this match as a one-off before the other younger contenders return to stake their claim.
“Sometimes you get dropped from teams and you make a comeback and you come back and you can play for as long as you're playing well and as long as you're performing,” Dravid said. “It's not written in stone or rule that you only get one match. He puts in a good performance, really shows what he’s got.
“Who knows, even when people come back from injury, you never know what can happen. So again, from my point of view, it’s not really only about this match. Yes, this match is important but in the larger context of things there’s a lot of cricket to be played further down the road as well. “
These are words Rahane should take to heart, for, as he has shown, a little luck can sometimes take you a long way.