Ajinkya Rahane has been an integral part of the Indian cricket team for a decade. He has contributed immensely to Men in Blue time and again. He is a great player in swinging balls as well as the spinning ball. His supreme technique, blended with a calm head has helped him notch a hundred in all the SENA countries.
He is a leader, a calm headed leader. The literal meaning of "Ajinkya Rahane" in his mother tongue Marathi is "to remain undefeated". Proving his name right, he is yet to be defeated as a captain in Tests. He is one of the only 4 captains for Men in Blue to lead the team in all formats. He enjoys a 100% victory record in ODI as a captain. Furthermore, he has a fabulous captaincy record in Tests. However, despite all this, he is often criticised for his captaincy by few cricket experts and a ton of trollers who hardly follow the game.
Rahane captained the Indian test side time for the first time in 2017 against Australia in Dharamshala when Virat was out due to injury. He played crucial knocks and made his debut captaincy special by a victory. A year later, he was named captain for the only test to be played between India and Afghanistan, who were playing their maiden test match, which India comfortably won in 3 days. However, the gesture of Ajinkya won many hearts, as he called the losing team Afghanistan for a photograph with the Indian side as winners of the series. One might argue the advantage of playing in India was the reason for these wins, but not too long ago, he scripted history in Gabba in January 2021.
India suffered a humiliating loss after being bowled out for a mere 36 in the second innings of the Adelaide test match, the only match with Virat playing in the side. The cricketing world bashed Men in Blue and few went on to say that Australia would whitewash India. However, Rahane had different plans. In absence of Virat, the jinx took the challenge and led from the front in Melbourne, scoring a magnificent century. His captain innings helped India strongly bounce back in the series with a win. Under his leadership, India went on to pull an unbelievable draw in Sydney in the 3rd test, followed by a historic win in Gabba, breaching the Aussie fortress for the first time in 32 years. It was Rahane's captaincy, which helped the Men in Blue win against the mighty Aussies, with almost 8 of their main players injured and replaced by the youngsters.
After almost a year, when he got a chance to lead, he did everything possible for India to win against the Kiwis. Some cricket pundits argued and criticised Rahane for not declaring early. But it was essential for India to bat longer as the same cricket pundits would have criticised him again if early declaration would have gone in the favour of the Black Caps leading to their victory. Also, the cricket pundits are not greater than the coach of the Indian team, Rahul Dravid, the man who had his support for Rahane's decision.
There is no denying fact that Jinks is not performing to his full potential when it comes to his batting. But in almost every match, he has done his part by contributing 30-40 odd runs for the team. His contribution to the WTC final was a useful one. In the Lord's victory too, he, along with Pujara established the foundation of Indian batting, which Bumrah and Shami used as a launchpad to attack English bowlers. He threw away the starts which he could have converted into a big hundred, but what mattered was his contribution, which he did.
As a batsman who can play swing well, he would have been a boon for India in the T20 world cup 2021, 2019 world cup too. But unfortunately, either due to politics or due to numerous other players coming in the side, everyone has ignored Ajinkya's strike rate and effectiveness in T20's as well as ODI's, allowing him only to play red-ball cricket and calling him a test specialist. And now, people are challenging him as a captain and as a batsman too, without realising the statistics.
Ajinkya has won 4 out of 6 matches he played as a captain. The other 2 matches resulted in a draw. He is yet to be defeated in test matches when he led the team. Out of the 6, 4 were played against Australia, and 1 against New Zealand and Afghanistan each. His field placements and rotation of bowlers is great. His calm head assists his decision making in crucial times. Often, his colleagues have termed him a captain under whom they can perform well. And now he was assisted by the man who he adores the most, Rahul Dravid. Although the next match would be led by Virat, Rahane will be playing an important part in it. His contributions in the past have helped the team and would help them in the matches to come. With the performance of Shreyas Iyer, pundits will try to snub Jinks. However, in my opinion, there can be no replacement for Ajinkya Rahane. He is a player who has won India matches and will do it even further. No one knows who will be in the playing eleven for the second test match, but one can only hope for Rahane to be a part of it. Whether he will be there, or not, as a leader, Ajinkya Rahane will be a name that will be termed as unbeaten, just like his name.
Author:- Ashwin Jangam (Cricket Analyst, host, poet, entertainer )
Insta I'd:- cricket_creativity