India captain Virat Kohli wouldn’t hear at a word of criticism directed at Ajinkya Rahane after the team’s loss in the 1st Test against England, at home. Joe Root’s 218 in the 1st innings and a brisk 40 in the second, helped the visitors bat India out of the game. Even though the match was won on day five, England had technically set the stage for victory by the end of Day 3.
Kohli’s deputy, Ajinkya Rahane aggregated just 1 (scores of 1 and 0) in the match. And this was his first match following the historic win at The Gabba which Rahane conquered as captain, the first Indian skipper to do so. Kohli has highlighted Rahane’s MCG Test hundred recently and asked critics to back off and not make judgments too soon.
“Look if you’re trying to dig something out, you’re not going to get anything because there’s nothing. I’ve said this many times in the past as well – along with Pujara, he [Rahane] is our most important Test batsman and he is going to continue to be. We believe in his abilities, we have believed in his abilities for a long time now and he’s an impact player,” Kohli said, on Tuesday.
“If you’re talking about the MCG Test, he stood up and scored a hundred when the team wanted it the most. So you can look at a number of innings and what happens from thereon, but the reality of the situation is they’ve won the series in Australia. Here there’s just one Test, two innings and both… today, yeah you can put that innings aside.”
But in reality, Rahane’s slump in form at home has been a concern for the longest time. Keeping aside a promising 2019, his numbers have shown a stark plummet in his numbers at home. In Tests since January 2017, Rahane averages 35.21 with the bat with only 810 runs in 25 innings and this includes the 642 runs scored in 11 innings, averaging 71.33, in 2019 alone. His numbers since 2017 are lower than that of Wriddhiman Saha (39.80) and KL Rahul (41.57), who do not make it to the playing XI however.
Besides, in about the same period, since his 188 against New Zealand at home (October 2016) Rahane has played 18 home matches under Kohli’s captaincy and has amassed 779 runs with only a hundred, 6 fifty-plus scores and only averages 29.96 with the bat.
With Kohli in the side, Rahane becomes the vice-captain. Even though it’s a leadership role, his responsibility towards his batting should become his focus, for India to win matches.
“My issue with Rahane the captain is Rahane the batsman. After that 100 in Melbourne his scores are – 27*, 22, 4, 37, 24, 1 & 0. After a 100, class players carry their form & carry the burden of players out of form,” Sanjay Manjrekar wrote on his Twitter.
“And Ajinkya Rahane, it was a poor shot [Rahane’s dismissal]. There are some shots you can’t explain and this was one of them. Full toss, straight into the fielder’s hand, it was a brilliant take but no excuses. I think little more responsibility required there,” Pragyan Ojha said on Sports Today, after Rahane’s wicket on Day 3.
If a Wriddhiman Saha, a terrific wicketkeeper who has taken match-defining catches for India and saved dozens of runs per game behind the stumps, has to sit out because of batting form. How long can Rahane persist without scoring like he used to, several years ago, especially at home?