CHENNAI: Judging a captain by two Tests is too early. Especially if they come 18 months apart and the third one takes as much time as the second. While he didn’t really need to do much in the one against Afghanistan, the Dharamsala Test against Australia, with series the on line, showed glimpses of what Ajinkya Rahane the captain could offer. In Virat Kohli’s absence, with the batsmen not firing as a unit, he went on to hand a debut to Kuldeep Yadav, despite having Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja in the XI.
On those four days in Dharamsala, Rahane showed he was more of a bowlers’ captain, with something up his sleeve all the time. Be it field placements or rotating bowlers, he never allowed Australia to settle down. On Saturday, in Melbourne, Rahane faces his biggest test yet as captain. First and foremost he has to ensure the team puts the Adelaide defeat behind.
“See, comparatively we had two good days and just one bad hour, where we lost it completely,” he said on the eve of the second Test.
While there are positives, what 36 all out has done to India’s confidence will be known only when they face Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood. Though none expected India to be 1-0 up heading into Melbourne, there are areas to be addressed. In the absence of their premier batsman, Rahane has a huge task. More than captain Kohli, India will miss Kohli the batsman. This is where Rahane’s challenge lies. He has to ensure India don’t miss their best batsman, as Australians would no doubt come hard at him.
With a slot opening up in Kohli’s absence, he refused to reveal where he would bat. Even in the practice match against Australia A, with Kohli choosing to rest, Rahane was at No 5, which will most likely be the case at MCG too, with Hanuma Vihari moving two slots up. Before departing, Kohli had said he is excited to see how Rahane raises his game.
On Friday, the stand-in captain was not ready to invite added pressure. “It is a proud moment for me leading India. Obviously, it is a great opportunity, responsibility as well, but I don’t want to take any pressure. I think what I want to do is back my team. So focus is not on me, it is all about the team and how we want to do well as a team. We are focussing on that,” he said.
This is Rahane’s third trip Down Under. If he was enhancing his reputation as a dependable overseas batsman during his first trip, this time he is fighting to live up to that tag. For a batsman who scored centuries in England, Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, West Indies and 90-plus scores in South Africa and Bangladesh on his first trips, the ones after that have not been convincing. He hasn’t looked the part in SENA countries in the last few outings.
This is why India would want Rahane to find the runs, especially when playing with five batsmen. For a batsman who likes the ball coming on to the bat, he would relish the bounce and pace in Australia, which aides his bat speed. But then, he has been a little nervy at the start, which opponents have identified. Through the next three weeks, Rahane the batsman and captain will come under intense scrutiny.
Rahane was asked what he learnt from Dharamsala. “I felt backing your instinct, remaining calm under pressure, backing your own strengths and methods, which I really focus on.” If he gets his act right, India might get a chance to make a comeback in the series.
Source: The New Indian Express