If Ajinkya Rahane feels aggrieved at the treatment meted out to him as far as his place in the Indian ODI team is concerned he has a valid point. And when he maintains that his record in ODIs was good when he was dropped he is absolutely right. And when he says that he should have been at the No 4 slot during last year’s World Cup campaign – a position that remained a much-vexed problem and was not fully solved even at the end when India went down to New Zealand in the semifinal – he is spot on.
In fact a year before the World Cup Virat Kohli had said that Rahane was “a strong contender’’ for the No 4 slot a position that was then up for grabs. And given Rahane’s class and experience, the captain’s description should have made him a front runner for the job. He had not done badly in the series in South Africa in 2018 where on fast and bouncy tracks and against an attack that started with Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada and continued with Imran Tahir and Andile Phehlukwayo he scored 140 runs in five innings at an average of 35 with the highest score of 79. Just before that in the home series against Australia he had successive scores of 55, 70, 53, 61, and 79. While he had gone in at No 4 against South Africa he had opened the innings against Australia thus proving his versatility. However, with Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan first choices as the opening pair for the World Cup, Rahane could only be slotted in the middle order. But the selectors went in for other choices leaving him out in the cold.
Hailing from the Mumbai school of batting Rahane was thought first and foremost to be a Test specialist though he played his first ODI 18 months before making his Test debut. But once established in the traditional format Rahane has been a tower of strength in the middle order as the figures – over 4200 runs at an average of almost 43 with eleven hundreds, a highest of 188 and one of the few Indians to get a century in each innings – will testify. But he also has the happy knack of adapting and his ODI figures too are fairly top-notch – almost 3000 runs at an average of 35 with three hundreds and a strike rate of nearly 79.
Rahane has made it clear that his goal is to come back into the ODI team and do well in white-ball cricket. In fact, he goes a step further saying that he is “sure’’ of making a comeback since “I do believe in myself.’’ Rahane has never been short on confidence and he says he is prepared to bat anywhere in the team’s interests and has already proved his adaptability as far as this aspect is concerned. The IPL which starts next month should give him enough opportunities to pave the way for his comeback.