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‘Good people win too’ — in Rahane’s Melbourne innings & victory, a message for Kohli-Shastri

When Rahane started planning for the Boxing Day Test, the odds were stacked as heavily as possible. But he produced an eight-wicket win to level the four-Test series 1-1.

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Kolkata: Plenty of plaudits have been showered on Ajinkya Madhukar Rahane, by giants ranging from Ian Chappell to Michael Vaughan, but the one which summed up India’s stand-in Test captain the best came from Sourav Ganguly.

Currently the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) president, Ganguly tweeted, “…Good people finish first too.” When that happens, the moments to savour become more special.

Three Januarys ago, captain Virat Kohli and head coach Ravi Shastri excluded vice-captain Rahane from the XI for the first Test, in heavenly Cape Town.

While the world was shocked, Rahane was left devastated. Kohli, for his part, justified beneficiary Rohit Sharma’s inclusion on “current form”.

Clearly, Kohli and Shastri forgot that Rahane had averaged just a shade below 70.00 in the previous Test series in South Africa!

That Rahane, now 32, largely keeps to himself and his voice is hardly ever heard made him a target to be pushed around. What got ignored is that Rahane has such determination that setbacks do not pull him down.

Big lesson: It does not pay to push around Rahane, a cricketer with loads of character.

Naturally, what happened was crushing for Rahane and I recall he looked shorter than 5’6” when I met him at the team hotel, The Cullinan. Expectedly, Rahane did not comment on his exclusion, but said “thank you” on being offered commiserations.

That wife Radhika was by his side probably helped Rahane, who usually destresses through songs from Bollywood (Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan are favourite actors), overcome the humiliation.

India lost in Cape Town as also in the next Test, in Centurion, where again Rahane was not played. With the series gone, he was recalled for the final Test, in Johannesburg.

Rahane produced an innings of substance — 48 in the second outing — before Mohammed Shami took centrestage with five for 28 to bowl out South Africa for 177. India won by 63 runs.

Once more, Rahane showed he is needed. That he is indispensable to the extent one can be. Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, who have influenced Rahane the maximum, were in the same bracket.


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Rising to the occasion

South Africa was three years ago. Now, to the present. India had an eminently forgettable D-N Test, in Adelaide, with a performance worse than Lord’s in the summer of 1974. Then, Kohli was headed home on paternity leave and Shami out of the series. Besides, Rohit was in quarantine in Sydney.

To put it in perspective, the odds were stacked as heavily as possible when Rahane started planning for the Boxing Day Test and beyond, with India 0-1 down within days of the start of the series.

Not one to make “speeches”, as a confidant told ThePrint, Rahane kept his message for the team brief. Apparently, on the lines of each one taking responsibility and putting up a performance to erase somewhat the memories of 36 at the Adelaide Oval.

After a poor IPL for the Delhi Capitals, Rahane had done nothing of note in the D-N Test. So, there was additional pressure going for the toss at the MCG.

Opting to bat, Australia got restricted to 195, thanks in no small measure to bold bowling changes and smart field placements. Objective No.1 achieved, Rahane scripted an outstanding 112 (his second hundred at MCG). Someone described it as an innings which would not invite many hits on YouTube, but what a knock.

It was a defining hundred and, given the circumstances, among the very best overseas by an India batsman. Rahane, however, ranks his counter-attacking 103 on a green-top wicket at Lord’s, in 2014, higher. That gem from Rahane was in a winning cause as well.

A captain who performs is respected more and he can then demand more. Rahane put himself in that position and got that bit extra, which was enough for India to win by eight wickets and level the four-Test series 1-1.

Rahane wanted his men to show “character”, “intent” and “attitude”, as all three were critical. He was not disappointed, with even debutants Shubman Gill and Mohammed Siraj playing their part with confidence.


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Upstaging Rahane

One wanted to hear so much in Rahane’s own words, but Shastri turned up at the post-match media conference. The head coach had no business upstaging the stand-in captain, but did.

Did Shastri take questions from the media after the huge embarrassment in Adelaide? No. He should have.

Imagine an MCG repeat if Kohli was around, but Rahane is too gentle a person to assert himself or make an issue. It was his moment and Shastri could, at best, have accompanied the Man of the Match.

It has gone fairly unnoticed, but Rahane has an all-win record as captain, with victories in Dharamsala vs Australia and in Bengaluru against Afghanistan preceding the one at the MCG.

Rahane is not known to admire a captain, past or present, but is understood to have studied Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s captaincy with some keenness. It was under him that he made his India debut (2011 in ODIs, 2013 in Tests).

Rahane’s own way

During and after the MCG Test, however, Rahane’s own captaincy won admiration. If the venerable Chappell termed it “imaginative”, Vaughan, who tracks cricket globally, called it “magnificent”.

Glenn McGrath, one of the commentators on TV, applauded Rahane for being “shrewd” and captaining his “own way”.

Stepping into Kohli’s big shoes could not have been easy, but Rahane delivered big in his distinctly understated but clear-in-the-mind style of leadership.

Of course, in the lead up to the MCG Test, senior-most pro Ishant Sharma, who has had to miss the tour of Australia owing to injury, declared Rahane a “bowler’s captain”.

Not everybody may take that very kindly, but opinions need to be respected.

After the Boxing Day Test, the pressure is more on Australia. That will change dramatically if the reported breach of the biosecurity protocol by Rohit and four other India cricketers is established.

Rahane, therefore, would be keeping fingers crossed till the investigation by Cricket Australia and the BCCI is complete.

It is with good reason that the captain’s chair is called the ‘hot seat’. It indeed is.


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3 COMMENTS

  1. Why did rahane haven’t got enough opportunities for ODIs…
    He can play according to the situation..
    He knows how to manage…
    As of no reason, rahane dropped from ODIs…..
    Bring back rahane to ODIs…
    He is known as the most technically correct batsmen…
    Then why he is always rejected without any reason….

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  2. Three formats of cricket, T20, One Day game and Test match are different. The technique for bowling and batting also are different. It is better if suitable player s are selected for each format., Instead of selecting a player in all formats even though, he is good only one format. Similarly Captains should be different for all formats. Make Rahena as regular captain for Tests. Virat for One day match and Rohit drama for Twenty Twenty.

  3. Wowww what a one sided opinion..I didn’t expected print will allow these kind of things..the South Africa tour false information was way more hilarious,author must have worked in bjp it cell before.

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