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Rahane shouldn't start in Adelaide

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Ajinkya_Rahane_India_Australia_overseas_away_Test_CricketDo you remember gawking in awe when the vice-captain of the Indian side was left out at Cape Town in India’s first SENA (South Africa, England, New Zealand, Australia) tour in years? When he continued to remain on the sidelines after a loss in the first Test, we were aggrieved.

Now, as India head to Australia in a year where they challenged South Africa and England in their backyards (losing both series), I’m not too sure that vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane should be part of the final eleven that takes the field.

The reasons for these contrasting views are aplenty. Rahane had a horrible time when Indian batsmen made runs for fun in an extended home season from 2015 to 2018. The Mumbai batsman, who had scored runs for fun at averages of 69.66, 54.00, 33.22 and 57.00 in South Africa, New Zealand, England and Australia in 2014-15, found the going tough back home where most Indian batsmen are at their comfortable best. However, knowing Rahane’s penchant for runs away from home, it should come as no surprise that he loves scoring runs on the tough wickets outside the country.

His overall record shows that Rahane is more fluent away than at home – with an average of 34.54 at home and 46.32 away. Across continents, the middle-order batsman had established his supremacy over pace, but somehow came second-best against spin in the sub-continent. Given India’s issues in the greener pastures abroad, Rahane’s form and security was a welcome blessing.

 

Rahane's Test record - Home vs Away

Home vs Away

Tests

Runs

HS

Average

BF

SR

100

50

Home

22

1140

188

34.54

2373

48.04

3

4

Away

30

2131

147

46.32

4051

52.6

6

11

 

All of this made his omission from the Test side for the first SENA tour in years rather surprising. That Rohit Sharma, a perennial defaulter in the format, was picked over him angered fans.

"He (Rahane) is a quality player. He has done well in South Africa, in all conditions actually away from home. He has probably been our most consistent and solid player away from home," the skipper said in South Africa. "I explained the reasons why Rohit Sharma started ahead of him [current form].”

Upon recall to the side for the final Test in South Africa, Rahane wasn’t quite successful but apparently did enough to earn a whole England tour.

He played each of the five Tests but the Lord’s hundred on the first day of the second Test in 2014 appeared ages away as Rahane struggled to find his tempo. In the five Tests, the middle-order batsman racked up an unconvincing 257 runs at an average of 25.70. In seven of the ten innings, Rahane was caught out with him exhibiting a clear technical difficulty outside the off-stump, a vulnerability Virat Kohli exhibited four years back in the same country.

Worryingly, the assuredness and temperament he had showcased so well in past overseas tours seemed to have deserted him. There were the rash, uncontrolled drives and a clear impatience in movement and shot making. Three of his ten dismissals came against spin but it wasn’t his major issue. He was dismissed seven times by seamers, six of them caught out, a depressing trend to watch for one of India’s most prolific run-scorers abroad in recent times.

The away average that stood at 53.44 till the end of 2017 dropped to 46.32, and in 2018 wallows at a deplorable 26.16. Over the years, Rahane had displayed consistency which led to his constant backing in the side. But an average that was perennially above the 40s in his first four years in International cricket dropped to 34.62 in 2017 and stands at 29.66 this year, a downward spiral which goes against the current management’s “current form” selection criteria.

While current form is a tricky theory in Test cricket, Rahane’s recent vulnerabilities and insecurity have been called out several times. He failed to get going for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy and though the India A tour of New Zealand was supposed to prep him under Rahul Dravid, the runs did not really flow.

There is a clear lack of confidence in his approach and it is likely the kind of mood that India wish to steer clear of at the start of an important tour.

With Hanuma Vihari in form and firing, Rahane should probably make way for the youngster with Ravindra Jadeja doubling up as second spinner and all-rounder at no.7. The five-bowler plan is a risk that India have managed well in the past. With Rahane’s concerning form and the roads in Australia, it seems a viable option.



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