Love or hate, everything is a question of time. Not long ago, Ajinkya Rahane appeared an outcast in the Indian team. It looked like the team management wouldn't touch him with a ten-foot pole. It's not making up stories, as some would say. Or why else would you drop a batsman of proven overseas record from the starting XI ahead of a very important Test series?
Clearly, Rahane wasn't on the good side of Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri when they sat down to pick the team for the first Test against South Africa in Cape Town. India before long had egg all over their face as they suffered a humiliating defeat having failed to chase down 208. Fans and experts intensified their questioning as to why Rahane wasn't playing and why Rohit Sharma was being preferred over him.
Kohli's brazen reply was that Rahane was out of the team for a lack of runs in the last few matches, which wasn't the case as far as Rohit was concerned. Basically, he was implying that by scoring piles of runs against a third-rate Sri Lankan bowling unit on largely benign wickets in both Tests and ODIs Rohit had proved he was a better option than Rahane. The Indian captain's refusal to back down and admit a mistake indicated that Rahane was set to miss another match as proved the starting XI for the next game at Centurion's SuperSport Park.
Another embarrassing defeat followed, and Kohli this time caved in under pressure and fire, leaving him no alternative but to bring Rahane back in the team for the third and final Test at Johannesburg. His inclusion brought good tidings to the tourists as India won the Test with Rahane scoring a very important 48 in the second innings to help lay the foundations. And how things changed after that!
In the lead-up to the ODI series opener on Thursday, Kohli praised Rahane not a little and even went on to say he was India's likely No.4 in the World Cup next year in England. And when Rahane scored 79 and featured in a third-wicket 189-run stand at Durban that helped India register their first-ever win at the venue, Kohli appeared to take on the role of a Rahane hagiographer. "Very happy for Jinx [Ajinkya Rahane]. Jinx is a top-class player. We understood fast bowling was going to be a big factor on this tour. He was superb, he took on the fast bowlers," Kohli waxed lyrical in complete opposition to his previous line of thinking regarding Rahane.
The best thing to come out of this episode is that Rahane will now know that he will have to perform consistently to stay in the team as Kohli appears to be a little fickle in his case, which is actually a very good thing. If a batsman of Rahane's talent puts his head down and keeps complacency at bay, the sky is the limit and eventually it will be the Indian team getting benefited. As far as Kohli is concerned, even though he has so far shown little inclination to learn from his mistakes, this episode might just make him a little less impatient and a little less hasty. Fans would hope that's how it turns out.