Virat Kohli’s fans are not the only ones who are celebrating the India captain’s imminent parenthood.
Ajinkya Rahane is another one as Kohli going on paternity leave after the first Test means he gets to captain India in three remaining matches of the all-important series.
What could be a better opportunity than this to breathe life into a career that has been sort of stagnant for a couple of years? Even more so in light of the humiliating defeat in the Adelaide Test that saw Rahane more or less fail with the bat — not to forget his faux-pas that resulted in Kohli’s run-out in the first innings against the run of play.
Having long been out of the Indian cricket team’s white-ball plans, Rahane nowadays is terribly dependent on Test cricket to stay relevant. However, normally as soon as these Test rubbers get over, irrespective of good performances, he, along with Cheteshwar Pujara, is forgotten like a dream.
Sadly the nature of cricket is such these days that good Test players are considered small and less important than the ones doing well in limited-overs cricket, particularly in T20s. The spotlight appears to be forever on them.
So at 32 years of age and his Test career hanging by a thread — yes, believe it or not, a couple of unsatisfactorily series can lead to his ouster probably for good — Kohli leaving Down Under for the delivery of his and Anushka Sharma’s first child is nothing short of a jackpot for Rahane.
If he can lead the team from the front both as a batsman and captain and help retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy — impossible as it may look at present — he can certainly increase his international shelf life by a couple of years at least. And more than that he will etch his name in the record books as in their entire cricket history India have beaten Australia in their own backyard just once in a Test rubber.
And beating Australia and win a Test series as India captain is not an unfamiliar concept to him; he has done it before — although it happened at home. In 2017, when Kohli had to pull out of the fourth and final Test at Dharamsala due to injury with the series tied at 1-1, Rahane stepped into the breach and led India to a famous 8-wicket win.
Then against Afghanistan in 2018, when Kohli chose not to participate, Rahane again fulfilled his duties to perfection as India won the historic Test — with it being the first-ever five-day international game for the team from south-central Asia.
A great many people rightly believe that Rahane is a big underachiever for a man once tipped to be Sachin Tendulkar’s successor. A batting average of 42.45 and 11 centuries in 66 Tests don’t really do justice to his phenomenal talent. In that light, a series win in Australia could go some way towards setting things to rights from Rahane’s point of view.
A disciplined, gentlemanly cricketer whose classical shots have the power to bring the exclamation ‘wow’ out of the mouth of even the quietest of fans, Rahane certainly deserves this stroke of luck. However, what he does with it remains to be seen. Though he can rest assured that there will be no dearth of support for him in the coming matches.
When all is said and done, the task on hand is really tough for Rahane especially after what transpired in the pink-ball Test but then big players flourish when the going gets tough. Rahane will do well to keep that in mind.
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