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How can you not love Rahane

by Gaurav Sethi

And how can you love Rohit
Ajinkya Rahane's batting average before the Delhi Test: 39.77. His batting average after the Delhi Test: 44.97. Two centuries, one of them unbeaten, and Rahane's ordinary Test series turns on its head. Before these twin hundreds, Rahane's scores in the series were 15, 2, 13, 9, and he had had more than his share of indiscretion. What stays in the mind is his dismissal in the second innings of the Nagpur Test. Virat Kohli had just fallen, and India were dodgy at 108/4. Had Rohit Sharma played that shot, he would have trended in four galaxies and beyond. But this was Ajinkya.
Ajinkya Rahane, Rajasthan Royals' studious captain and opening batsman. Ajinkya Rahane, Rahul Dravid's keen student and disciple. Ajinkya Rahane, the quiet Indian. Akinkya Rahane, that kid with the marvellous story of how he traversed the Mumbai miles as a budding cricketer.
But didn't Rohit do those Mumbai miles too? How did he make it this far? Isn't Rohit quiet? Isn't Rohit earnest?
In December 2014, Rahane and Rohit in a nutshell: Both from Mumbai, both with 57-plus first class averages, both with 40-plus Test averages. One scored only at home, the other only away.
Until this series, Rohit had only played two innings at home and scored both his centuries then. Rahane had made his Test debut in March, 2013, in Delhi, making 7 and 1. Since then he had travelled the world and conquered every frontier, scoring centuries in New Zealand, England, Australia, Sri Lanka, and only narrowly missing one in South Africa. Until the Delhi Test, in six innings at home, Rahane's highest score was 15. A small sample, but it was what it was. 15. Didn't look great on the CV.
Then the Delhi Test arrived - the same ground where it all started. Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Wriddhiman Saha had fallen within three runs of each other, India was down at 137/6. Rahane was still there. He soaked the pressure in. He batted, he battled, he counter-attacked: over five hours, hitting four sixes and 11 fours. By the time he was done, so was South Africa - India was nearly 300, a bridge too far for the Proteas.
In the second innings, Rohit was promoted to three. Knocked over first ball by Morne Morkel. India was in a precarious sitiaution at 57/4. Rahane battled again, even more so in the second innings. So much restraint from someone who had just scored a hundred on the same ground, just two days back! Unusual. Possibly that is what defines Rahane... don't take anything for granted. Not the hundred, not the form, not the spot. Previously he has lost sleep over an IPL dismissal, imagine what the drought in the previous Tests would have done to him.
Then there is Rahane the ODI batsman. The very one that was recently dropped by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, only to captain an away series in Zimbabwe. His batting average is in the low 30s, and strike rate a little under 80. There is enough cloud over what batting position works best for him and the team. But it is his proven class in the longer format that will continue to buy him more matches. That and a belief, that someone this good, will eventually come good, regardless of the format.
Sounds familiar? Cut to Rohit Sharma. A player who opens the batting for India in ODIs and T20s, and doesn't know whether he's coming or going at three or five in Tests. Rohit's ODI average is nearly 40, and strike rate in the 80s, and most importantly, he has two ODI double hundreds.
When does India stop its pursuit to convert cricketers - Murali Vijay's success in the longer format still tempts the selectors to give him a shot in ODIs; he even scored his first ODI half century this summer against Zimbabwe. Of course, this denial of accepting that a player can only adapt to one format, denies another player on the bench the chance. Or worse still, he continues to be off the radar, because the squad is written in stone.
Chances are if Rohit is accepted as a white ball wonder, it'll save him some worry over the red, and help us as a nation to warm up to him as a batsman and not just a troll-magnet. There have been players like him before. Remember Yuvraj Singh? We didn't love him less because he fell short in the longer format. It's just that the selectors refused to believe he couldn't master another format. Yuvraj played 40 Tests from 2003-2012.
Michael Bevan played only 18 Tests for Australia but was one of their best ODI finishers ever.
What does the future hold for Rohit? Maybe the pink ball has a twist in store. He does like it under the lights.

First published here

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