Ajinkya Rahane, one of the most prolific players in Indian Cricket team, has had a very roller coaster of a journey. Rahane made his first T20 hundred in April 2012 off just 58 deliveries. Coincidentally, as if fate wanted to play a fun game, his second T20 hundred also came in April off 58 deliveries. The only difference between the two is the gap of seven years. In these seven years, a lot has changed for Rahane and a lot hasn’t.
Former captain of Rajasthan Royals in IPL 2019, was still waiting to make his test debut, even though he had scored a lot of runs in domestic cricket tournaments. His rise came in 2013-15, when he came on to join the Indian cricket test team, especially when it came to overseas matches. It seemed that cricket came easy to Rahane. Yet, in 2017-19, Rahane seemed to have hit his peak in the cricket games. He became the second lead to Kohli and his test average in the cricket games was reduced to 40. He consequently failed to take the lead in these cricket games.
Ajinkya Rahane, seven years ago was a different cricket player than today. He had a quiet confidence about him, especially after his above average debut against England, and then his subsequent breakthrough performance in the IPL. He also went on to play as a middle-order batsman in the 2015 world cup and dabbled with other roles too like a reverse opener or a floater in the World Cup.
Yet, his place in the Indian cricket team was cut short, with the rise of Rohit Sharma, who transformed from an underwhelming player to one of India’s great cricket players. Rahane’s last ODI came in February 2018, and his last T20 in August 2016. Currently, Ajinkya Rahane is playing in IPL cricket games 2019 with the Rajasthan Royals, trying to make his mark.
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Seven years ago, Rahane had shown the world that it is possible to play an IPA cricket game with a decent strike rate of 130. He scored 560 runs in IPL cricket games in 2012 and showed how to do it without slogging. Ajinkya Rahane is no Rishabh Pant, who would play aggressively and without fear. Rahane has a different approach to cricket games. He tries to settle down, and then play calculated elegant shots through the ‘safe area’. He was not an ideal player for a T20 format, yet in 2012 he showed the cricketing world exactly how a misfit is trying to fit.
However, his T20 career soon ended, after the advent of more aggressive players took his place. His lowest point came in 2017 IPL cricket games, where his strike rate was only 118. Yet, Rajasthan Royals placed a lot of trust in him and handed him the captaincy in the IPL cricket game for the year. But, the responsibility of captaincy and his batting performance seemed to be inversely related in cricket games. It was evident, that this payer had lost the freedom and the looseness that he once commanded through his bat.
But just like every underdog story, IPL 2019 saw Ajinkya Rahane come out of the underbelly and once again make his mark on the crease, which had initially caused him a lot of pain. Rahane gave up his captaincy to Steven Smith in the mid-season of IPL 2019 and went on to play a brilliant knock on 22nd April. Suddenly, the player seemed to come into life, after being stripped of both captaincy of the Rajasthan Royals for IPL 2019, and a berth in the upcoming ICC Cricket World Cup.
The cricket match, on 22nd April, saw Rahane go for the cover drive and the straight shots, just like he did back in IPL 2012. This cricket match, also so Rahane experimenting with a paddle sweep shot and a paddle scoop shot, that doesn’t really come naturally to him. His break out moment in the cricket match came when he hit a straight six off ace bowler Rabada. It was almost like in this cricket game Rahane was rebelling. Whether his rebel is towards not being selected on the upcoming world cup, or for his self censoring nature when it comes to being aggressive in cricket games, is something that only he can enlighten us on.
What we are certain off, is that it took this maverick seven years between his two T20 hundred, to show us what he is capable off even after his inherent limitations in this format of cricket games.
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Seven years ago, in IPL 2012, Rahane posted 103 not out off 60 balls, and the Royals had managed to score 195. In response, the Royal Challengers Bangalore only managed 136 all out, even with the batting powers of Chris Gayle, Ab De Villiers, and Virat Kohli.
On 22nd April for IPL 2019, Ajinkya Rahane scored 105 not out of 63 balls, and Rajasthan posted 191. Yet, in response, Delhi Capitals won easily with six wickets to spare. Rishabh Pants’ undefeated 78 off 36 is what sealed this cricket game.
A lot has changed in those seven years. Not only in for Rahane, but also in the cricket game. It has become more aggressive and many more players have started playing without fear. This has put, players like Rahane and otters who tend to play more elegant and classic shots under the radar. For now, only time will tell whether Rahane will be able to fit into this changed cricket game, or will he once again fade into the shadows.
Also published on Medium.