Ajinkya Rahane’s poor run a worry for India with South Africa up next

Ajinkya Rahane is one of the most dependable batsmen in the Indian cricket team, but his recent poor showings with the bat are a cause for concern, especially with the South Africa tour looming.

india vs sri lanka 2017 Updated: Dec 02, 2017 20:00 IST
Sidharth Gulati
Sidharth Gulati
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
India vs Sri Lanka,Indian cricket team,Sri Lankan cricket team
Ajinkya Rahane recent poor form is a cause for concern as far as the Indian cricket team is concerned. (AFP)

Ajinkya Rahane is one of the most prolific batsmen in the current India Test squad but his recent form in the longest format has been underwhelming, raising concerns with the South Africa tour up next. (IND v SL Day 1 report)

In the ongoing series against Sri Lanka, Rahane has failed to reach double figures in the four innings so far. While all other batsmen, led by Virat Kohli, have got at least one good score against the hapless visitors, Rahane’s poor form may not have hurt the team but there’s more to it. (IND v SL Day 1 highlights) (IND v SL Day 1 full scorecard)

Since his 188 against New Zealand at Indore in October 2016, the Test vice-captain hasn’t scored a hundred in home Tests. There have been a few handy knocks, like the 82 against Bangladesh in Hyderabad, 52 against Australia on a tough Bangalore track and the 46 against Steve Smith’s men in the decider in Dharamsala — where he captained India to series victory in Kohli’s absence.

But the big scores haven’t come. His average of 36.26 in Test cricket in 2017 is the worst for him in a calendar year since his debut four years ago.

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More often than not, he has fallen to spin — rare for an Indian batsman in favourable conditions. Even against Sri Lanka, he has got out to spinners twice.

A loose cut shot against off-spinner Dilruwan Perera led to his dismissal in Nagpur and on Day 1 of the third Test at the Ferozeshah Kotla and he was beaten by Chinaman bowler Lakshan Sandakan’s wrong one, playing a loose drive to be stumped.

Lopsided show

Compared to his average of 53.44 in 24 away Tests, Rahane’s home average of 34.44 is nothing but a shocker.

With India to play almost entirely away from home in the New Year, the team would want its top batsman for alien conditions to be in form and oozing with confidence.

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It is not clear whether Rahane is low on confidence. He scored four half-centuries in the home ODI series against Australia in September-October in Shikhar Dhawan’s absence, but could not retain the spot.

KL Rahul, a picture of confidence in the home Test series against Australia despite nursing a shoulder injury, has also looked a touch unsure since failing in the middle-order during the ODI series in Sri Lanka. He was left out and Dhawan picked for the Delhi Test.

Bangar’s backing

India’s assistant coach Sanjay Bangar, however, has backed Rahane to bounce back.

“He would be disappointed by the manner in which he got out. He’s somebody who works very hard on his game like all players do. Last match and this match, maybe his shot selection wasn’t right. That would be hurting him. But he’s a quality player and going forward, his overseas record has been phenomenal. He has the ability to bounce back very quickly,” Bangar told the post-match press conference on Saturday.

“On all tours abroad, apart from Bangladesh, he’s the only player, or probably one of the few players, who has scored a hundred in (all) overseas countries we’ve toured. He’s performed when the chips are down. He’s too good a player to not be making runs all the time.”

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With Murali Vijay and Kohli piling the runs at will and Wriddhiman Saha and R Ashwin yet to bat, India look unlikely to bat again.

For Rahane, it would mean a challenge to stay upbeat as he would be going to South Africa without getting another opportunity to bat.

First Published: Dec 02, 2017 19:43 IST