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Jinx is not jinxed

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Ajinkya_Rahane_Cricket_IndiaThe weather played spoilsport for the Virat Kohli led Indian team at Kingston, on the third day of the second Test between India and West Indies. The final session of play was abandoned, and with the forecast showing more rain on Days 4 and 5, the hosts relished the likelihood of averting another awkward defeat.

But the silver lining for the visitors was yet another phenomenal knock by their newly sworn-in vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane, who - in a remarkable feat - scored his seventh Test ton, and third in four innings. 108 against West Indies, and 127 and 100 not out against South Africa in the Indian capital in December, 2015.

The 29-year-old batsman from India’s financial capital has the flamboyance of scoring tons overseas. To have more overseas Test centuries to your name than in your own backyard, is an achievement not many modern cricketers can boast, but Rahane’s enviable overseas record is a challenge to his peers who have struggled away from home.

Out of a total of seven, five of his centuries have come abroad - New Zealand, England, Australia, Sri Lanka and West Indies. Bangladesh and South Africa are the only two countries where he hasn’t registered a century yet.

But in December 2015, against South Africa in Delhi, he became only the 5th Indian cricketer to score two centuries in one Test. In fact, the same Feroz Shah Kotla pitch was criticised for not aiding batsmen at all. Thanks to his twin centuries, Rahane averaged 53.20 in that series. Rahane is also the only batsman to have played at least one innings of 90 runs in eight consecutive Test series.

But even after amassing such feats, the Mumbai batsman’s name is nowhere on the list of the best Test batsmen currently playing. While the willows of Kane Williamson, Steve Smith, Joe Root, Virat Kohli, and now even Cheteshwar Pujara are making headlines, Rahane’s feats don’t yet qualify to make a mark.

 

We have seen India’s batting deteriorate like a house of cards on tours of New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and England. However, it was during these anxious moments when Rahane rose to the occasion. The current Indian captain averaged an unimpressive 13.40 in five matches in England, while his current deputy smashed a match winning ton at Lord’s, averaging a decent 33.22 in five matches.

However, his recent slump at home, what some may call the bleakest phase of his international career, has brought his place in the Test team under the scanner.

Home season is like a harvest season for Indian batsmen. Virat Kohli, Lokesh Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, and even Wriddhiman Saha have made the most of the Indian feather bed.

Strangely, the right-hander from Mumbai is seen struggling. In the recent home series against England, Bangladesh and Australia, he has only two half-centuries, one which came at Hyderabad against Bangladesh, and the other in Bengaluru against Australia.

Out of the last 13 Tests at home, he has only 3 good scores, including the 188 against New Zealand in Indore.

But skipper Virat is well aware of the experience and class Rahane brings to the table. And hence he didn’t choose to drop him for the one-off Test against Bangladesh after the poor performance against England.

“See, I feel one game doesn’t overshadow another player’s two years of hard work. You need to understand what ‘Jinx’ has done for the team over the past two years. He averages almost 50 in the format and he is probably the most solid batsman in our team in the Test format.”

It is often noticed that during a lean patch, everything seems to go erratic for a cricketer. When luck doesn’t favor the batsman, it seems like the whole world has conspired to have him dismissed. Inside edges ricochet onto the stumps, strokes fly straight into the hands of the only fielder securing the boundary, and incredible run-outs appear out of nowhere. There is always a way for the batsman’s quick return to the pavilion.

But Rahane, a classy Test batsman, has always been the team’s silent warrior. He is that old-school batter who has a perfect temperament and solid technique for red-ball cricket. He would not mind spending hours on the pitch, and, unlike the contemporary batsman, rarely indulges in an unorthodox shots.

Karun Nair may have a triple century on his CV, but considering Rahane’s consistent Test exploits, the Indian team should be more patient with him. Nonetheless, his class is such that even being dropped won’t keep him out of form for a long time.

 

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