Ajinkya Rahane has always been India’s go-to man in overseas conditions. There has never been any doubt about his class and temperament even when the team management turned a blind eye to his credentials.
Be it in Melbourne during the 2020-21 series when he led a dramatic comeback with a 112 after India were bundled out for 36 in the opening Test, the 103 at Lord’s in 2014 or the 118 in Wellington in the previous series, Rahane always rose to the occasion when the situation demanded. When other distinguished batters have run for cover, he stood tall.
His 89 at The Oval on Friday will probably rank alongside his 12 centuries after he gave India a chance to fight back in the WTC final.
He never threw any tantrums once head coach Rahul Dravid made public his plans to groom the youngsters. He went back to the grind of domestic cricket and kept himself ready for an opportunity.
The touch play artist transformed his game in the IPL after getting to work with Mahendra Singh Dhoni at CSK. It made the selectors sit up and take notice. With Suryakumar Yadav hardly making a mark in the longer format and Shreyas Iyer out following a surgery, there was none better suited than Rahane for the No.5 position.
At The Oval, he batted in the manner he usually does: a little tentative at the outset. As he gained in confidence, there was some show of aggression and he was excellent off the backfoot.
He trusted his timing and the cover drive was his most productive shot. What stood out during his innings was the clarity of thought and the ability to pick the gaps with consummate ease.
Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar, heaped praise on Rahane during commentary on Star Sports.
“Look at the hundreds he scored, they have mostly been when India were in trouble. He has always risen to the occasion... he has a sense of the occasion. He’s one of those low-profile players who won’t be thumping his chest when he gets to a half-century or a century. He just raises his bat, goes about his business quietly, but assuredly,” he said.