Ajinkya Rahane: A study in contrast
At a time when the Indian cricket is reeling under an all too visible turf-war between its two main protagonists, there raises, a more so quaint looking player giving everyone a sense of serenity amidst the chaos.
Quaint, because, the flamboyance is what every Indian cricketer has seemed to be born with. And serenity, because, the madness in which the team has taken a whirlwind journey in the last few months, especially after a spate of uncalled-for criticisms within and beyond its ranks, and of course the recent Bangla debacle!
In comes Ajinkya Rahane – a perfect antithesis to the demonstrative and aggressive breed of recent Indian cricketers. After finding himself being 'dropped' for not being so adept in rotating the strike in the limited-overs format, at least according to regular One-Day International skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the middle-order batsman was anointed the captain of the team travelling to Zimbabwe.
Dhoni's straight talk in Dhaka merited some research and like most of the time, the skipper was right. Rahane was indeed struggling in the middle-order, scoring less than what his ever so growing fans want him to. But, the root cause of that frailty lies in a rather unsettled batting position the 27-year-old was subjected to. Everybody struggles when the base keeps shifting.
But, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) have shown enough faith in the Mumbai opener by giving him a chance to not only redeem his batting cause, but also entrusted him to lead a side consisting of sidelined players, who are eager to stay relevant like himself. Strange, it may sound. He is primarily considered a Test specialist, and now finds himself donning the captaincy band for ODIs.
A short tour, nonetheless, of three ODI and two T20I match series – all cramped in a nine-day period, to be played in a single ground – but India’s winter outing in Zimbabwe, despite carrying a second-string tag, will provide the sidelined players a chance to perform and be in the reckoning.
Given how some of the regulars in national team have become liabilities, BCCI’s FTP (Future Tour Program) obligatory tour, with that of Australia A's upcoming India tour will be monitored closely.
In such a scenario, getting to lead a hungry side on national duty should fire-up Rahane, who has been dubbed a surplus to requirements for so long. After making his debut in 2011 and having seen the best of the world, Rahane will lead from the front in Zimbabwe. A good outing will surely end his harrowing time of warming benches in the shorter format of the game. It should also give also him a chance to become a regular, which he so richly deserves.
That's where, his other aspects will be probed too. For no reason, the wise men at BCCI's high corridor will give a non-regular the chance to prove his leadership skills, let alone claim a permanent position in the team.
It's understandable that with all the experienced players, or say, stars of the team rested after an ardous, long tour which involved an extensive stay Down Under for that high-profile Australia series and the 2015 world Cup, followed by a home-coming repast which turned sour in the neighbouring Bangladesh, installing an unheralded player at the helm was all but a mediating move.
Keeping beside the politics of choosing a non-conformist in Rahane as the captain of Indian team, what sits well for everyone at his anointment is, the Mumbaiker comes with an affable, likeable personality. It’s not that other Indian captains, past or present, lack that charming factor; what stood out in case of Rahane is his politeness on and off the field, which borders to genteel novelty.
Combine that humility with a near-perfect technique, and more than appreciable temperament, and here is a player who will play for India for a long time. Indian cricket need not always profess in the hyperboles, after all cricket is still a gentleman’s game, as they say.