Ajinkya Rahane is a quiet man.
He lets his bat do the talking and how his willow has conversed with the game and the fans over the past two years.
Ajinkya Rahane is a team-man.
He is in the Rahul Dravid mould.
Dropped in Bangladesh for not being suited to the ODI format and having a slower strike rate than his contemporaries, the Mumbaikar is now the stand-in skipper for the upcoming Zimbabwe tour in the absence of MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma.
Rahane—refreshingly—has no pretensions about his new role.
“The decision of naming me captain did come as a surprise because I wasn’t thinking about captaincy ever. I didn’t know how to react when I heard the news.
Once the news slowly began to sink in, I became really confident of handling this new responsibility.”
“Firstly, playing under MS Dhoni I would observe how he would be calm on the field. He has a very peculiar and calm way of handling situations. I would like to take that quality from him.
What I would like to take from Virat Kohli would be controlled aggression. You can see that quality in his batting and his captaincy.
And finally, Rahul bhai is someone who likes to keep things really simple on the field, which I got to know while playing under him with the Rajasthan Royals.
Having said that, I have my own set of ideas and I know what I have to do on the field.”
This is the first series for Team India since the re-framing of the ODI rules.
The changes are as follows:
The obvious effect is to reduce team totals. 400+ scores may once again become a thing of the past.
A return to a more traditional format implies that batsmen should eschew risk-taking and play to their strengths. Technique would be of paramount importance again. Spinners, of course, benefit with the extra fielder in the deep in the slog overs. Captains can be either offensive or defensive in the first 10 overs.
Murali Vijay, too, gets a chance to buttress his ODI credentials.
And the likes of Robin Uthappa and Kedar Jadhav can stake their claims to the wicketkeeper’s slot should Dhoni decide to quit sooner than later.
I suspect that it is this game of musical chairs that is of more salient interest to the selectors and the Indian think tank.
Other stories to follow are whether Manish Pandey, Ambati Rayudu or Manoj Tiwary can make a lasting impression. Opportunities to be in the full XI are few and far between.
Despite the absence of the main stalwarts, the squad is not a young lot with Harbhajan Singh leading the spinning trio.
Cheteshwar Pujara is missing from the above. He leads the India A side at home against Australia A.
Now Rahane, Vijay and Pujara may consider themselves hard-done by that they are not first choices whenever the ODI squad is chosen. They are labelled ‘Test specialists‘.
But , to be frank, is that really an injustice to the troika? Is it not an indicator of the selectors’ faith in them that despite the relatively fewer opportunities given them, they are penciled in ahead of the glory boys when it comes to the guts-and-gore version of the sport?
Being a Test player is the pinnacle of achievement. For Rahane, Vijay and Pujara to be considered head-and-shoulders above their counterparts should be a matter of pride and not despondency.
Class always tells.
What he said:
“Numbers 1, 2 and 3 in the batting order, in One-Day cricket in Asian batting conditions, is like travelling first class. You just get better perks.”
Sanjay Manjrekar makes it clear that most Indian pitches are so docile that batsmen at the top of the order are—for all purposes—handed free tickets to big scores.
The cricketer-turned-commentator was writing about Virat Kohli’s decision to promote Ambati Rayudu up the batting order in the second ODI against Sri Lanka at Ahmedabad. Rayudu made the best use of the conditions to notch up his maiden ODI century.
“Now it must be said here, that there was no cricketing compulsion or logic for such a move.
As we discovered later, from Kohli’s post-match views, it was a move to basically give Rayudu the pleasure of batting in the top three against a moderate bowling attack in Indian conditions.”
“I thought this was a tremendously selfless move by Kohli the captain. I have seen many stalwarts of Indian cricket who never let go of such an opportunity , an opportunity to score some easy international runs. Virat, being the kind of player that he is, it was like saying `pass’ to an international hundred.He forsook his own hundred so that Rayudu could get his first one. What that has done is, it’s lifted Rayudu’s confidence sky-high. I don’t see him as a regular No. 3 for India, but whatever position he bats in now, he will be bursting with self-confidence.That’s what a 100 does to a batsman that a 50 or a 60 never does.”
What Manjrekar really meant:
“Numbers are very important in Indian cricket especially in Indian conditions. Get your eye in and you can bully your way to a flat-track century in the blink of an eye (if you are the cashing in kind).”
What he definitely didn’t:
“I shouldn’t be saying this. I was a No.3 batsman myself.”
“The future’s in the air
I can feel it everywhere
Blowing with the wind of change”
Lines from the Scorpions’ ‘Winds Of Change’ come to mind when I ruminate over the past week’s happenings in the world of sport.
The song celebrates the changes in the political clime—the end of the Cold War— and was inspired by the band’s visit to Moscow in 1989.
It was the theme song for the reunification of Germany.
Winds of change are blowing over more than one sport.