End of the road for Rahane’s limited overs career?

There has been one rather forlorn figure in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL). Amidst all the razzmatazz and the high-octane games, Ajinkya Rahane has looked rather out of sorts this season of the IPL. Captaining the Rajasthan Royals this year, Rahane has been unimpressive both as a captain and a batsman. As a batsman, especially, he has been unable to live up to his role –i.e. to be the rock for his brittle batting order.

It was this reason, perhaps, that Rahane has been left out of the limited overs squad that is due to tour England later in the year. With more young and talented batsmen coming up and with Rahane’s form taking a steady dip, this news was not at all surprising.

In 11 matches of IPL 2018 thus far, Rahane has just managed 243 runs with two fifties. And what has been even more noticeable has been his poor strike rate of 125. Rahane’s failure to rotate the strike and punish the bowlers at the appropriate time has cost his team dear. This was evident in Rajasthan’s game against Sunrisers Hyderabad earlier last month where, chasing a modest target of 151, Rahane remained unbeaten on 65 but could not take his team over the line.

Now, Rahane is a very talented batsman and he has exhibited his skills several times, especially in Test cricket. However, he has been struggling to leave a mark in limited overs cricket for quite some time now, despite several opportunities. After 90 ODIs Rahane has an average of 35.26 and in 20 T20Is he averages a paltry 20.83. His strike-rate in both the formats is 78 and 113 respectively – way below standards for a modern day batsman.

Thus, one cannot help but agree that Rahane struggles in limited overs cricket. And while he might well have performed in England this year – a country where he has excelled in the past – it would have been unfair to ignore the other talents leading up to the World Cup in 2019. The likes of KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Ambati Rayudu, and Dinesh Karthik have all performed excellently of late and deserved chances in the Indian middle-order.

The World Cup in England is just about a year away and the Indian team management would need to sort their squad before the big tournament commences. The ODI and T20I series in England presents the perfect opportunity to try out other talents and decide which ones can be useful next year. Rahane, sadly, does not make the cut and it is clear that the selectors and the team management are not looking at him as a future prospect in the limited overs team.

It is unfortunate but a bitter truth to swallow for Rahane. In whatever chances he has got he has been inconsistent and, more importantly, has been unable to move along the pace. Back in 2016, the then Indian captain MS Dhoni had insisted that Rahane struggles to bat in the middle order in limited overs format because he has a problem rotating the strike on slow pitches. This has indeed been true and Rahane has struggled in the middle overs. In the lead up the World Cup, there isn’t much time remaining and it is better to look beyond Rahane in limited overs cricket now.

There is no denying that Rahane has class. He is a tremendous Test batsman and has excelled in the longer format on all conditions. His Test performance would be crucial when India tours England and Australia later this year. Perhaps this exclusion from the limited overs team can be a blessing in disguise for Rahane. He can now solely focus on the Test format and display his best when India needs him the most.

Here is hoping that Ajinkya Rahane takes this exclusion from the limited overs team in the right spirit and goes on to exhibit his best in Test cricket in the days to come.

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