Ajinkya Rahane's sloppy showings with the bat cost India dear in the series loss
When Ajinkya Rahane toe-ended an attempted slog sweep off Moeen Ali into the hands of Keaton Jennings on the final day of the Oval Test, his dismissal summed up the kind of series he had endured with the bat.
The India deputy skipper had just settled into a nice rhythm but threw away his wicket in a moment of madness with the visitors battling to save the Test on the final day.
On the face of it, Rahane’s numbers in the series are not so shabby when compared to other batsmen in the Indian line up. He finished as their fourth highest run-scorer in the five-match series with 257 runs while notching up two half-centuries.
A series average of just 25.70 does no justice to Rahane’s talents and especially his credentials as an able overseas Test batsman. Despite playing a Test more, he was comfortably outscored by England youngster Sam Curran whose 272 runs came while batting in the lower order.
The 30-year-old Mumbai batsman did play two innings of note with his important 81 in the first innings at Trent Bridge and a dogged 51 in the second innings at Southampton. Apart from these two knocks, Rahane has looked a shadow of the batsman was once hailed as the rock of India’s overseas Test pursuits.
It is the manner of Rahane’s dismissals which will irk the Indian team management the most. The right-hander has now developed a notorious habit of looking extremely fluent and composed at the crease before throwing his wicket away with some wayward shot selection.
What was the most worrying aspect of Rahane’s batting in the series was his tendency to chase at deliveries outside the off stump which could very well have been left alone. Four times in the first two Tests did Rahane display this tendency and all four times he paid the ultimate price by edging the ball towards the slip cordon.
Even in the third Test at Trent Bridge which was won by the visitors, Rahane’s excellent knock of 81 came to an end in the same manner. The sight of Rahane fishing outside the off-stump in cavalier fashion against masters of swinging ball like James Anderson was baffling to say the least.
For a large period, Rahane was considered as India’s most bankable overseas batsman. That mantle has now well and truly been taken up by skipper Virat Kohli while his deputy continues to touch new lows.
Out of the nine Test tons registered by the India middle-order batsman over the course of his career, six have comes overseas. But, more importantly, only two have of them have come in the last three years. Both of those tons came against Sri Lanka at Colombo in the tours of 2015 and 2017 respectively.
The man who was crafting masterful tons at Lord’s and in Wellington in 2014 is now a distant memory and has been replaced by a batsman very much lacking in self belief. From a player who was averaging nearly 50 three years ago or so, Rahane is now only averaging a paltry 30.27 since the start of 2017 and his numbers get even worse when looking at his 2018 displays.
While there aren’t too many contenders to take Rahane’s place in the Test line up for now, but as shown by Murali Vijay’s recent axing from the squad, no player, no matter how senior he might be, is safe from the cull in Kohli’s India.
If he continues in the same vein, there is no doubt that even Rahane’s days could be numbered. As such, India’s next overseas assignment in Australia could be the acid test for the batsman’s Test credentials.
A return to domestic first-class cricket for a while not might be such a bad idea for Rahane given how he has struggled to register the big knocks in recent times. Getting the big scores under his belt before the tour of Australia might just be what the India vice-captain needs for now.