In cricketing parlance, an ideal Twenty20 batsmen should be hard hitter, risk taker and, above all, flamboyant. Ajinkya Rahane possesses none of these characteristics. Yet he has shown promise and has been effective in the limited opportunities presented to him at the international level.
In the first T20i against Pakistan in Bangalore, the Mumbaikar changed the perception that he is meant just for Tests. In fact, it was he who provided India the initial impetus, while Gautam Gambhir was struggling. His knock was a reminder that you need not be a Kevin Pietersen or a Yusuf Pathan to succeed in limited-overs if you have a sound technique and the right basics.
He illustrated it with a stupendous cover drive off Mohammad Irfan, who was troubling Gambhir at the other end. He followed it up with an effortless six over covers off Saeed Ajmal, a stroke that oozed class. He did reinforce the age-old creed that proper cricketing shots can fetch you runs. Rahane has shown that you can have a strike-rate of 130 in T20 with orthodox hitting.
In Bangalore, most of Rahane’s strokes came in the ‘V’. His timing stood out. “He presented the full face of the bat. All were text book shots, not once he played a cross-batted shot or slogged,” said Lalchand Rajput, former India ‘A’ coach.
Rajput believes Rahane is meant for all the formats. “Be it Tests, ODIs or T20, Ajinkya is capable of getting runs because his basics are right. He has got the ideal temperament to succeed at the highest level,” Rajput added.
Apart from his batting, Rahane has also impressed everyone with his fielding. Former ODI cricketer Jacob Martin feels Rahane makes a difference of nearly 15 runs on the field. “I’ve seen him bat on a green top at the Mahalaxmi ground in Mumbai. He had displayed very good technique. But the biggest change I found in the new Rahane was his fielding. He has improved a lot. I can say he is lighting fast and, at times, reminds me of Jonty Rhodes. In T20, where victory margins are mostly single digits, Rahane’s contribution on the field makes a huge difference,” he said.
Martin thinks Rahane should feature prominently in India’s ODI scheme, now that Sachin Tendulkar has quit ODIs. “He is the kind of player who can adjust to any situation. He has grown several notches as a batsman after his stint with the Rajasthan Royals,” he added.
Interestingly, before joining Rajasthan Royals, Rahane was part of the Mumbai Indians but was on the bench most of the times. The move to Jaipur has truly made a difference to his career. Nothing like sharing the dressing room with Shane Warne.
Martin said, “Ajinkya has mastered his batting during the IPL. He was marked for Tests. Now he’s a complete cricketer.”