Rajasthan Royals team captain Ajinkya Rahane during the practice session ahead the Indian Premier League IPL 2018 cricket matches tournament at Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India on 31 Mar,2018. Ajinkya Rahane is new captain of Rajasthan Royals after Australian cricket team Batsman Steve Smith ban from IPL 2018 due to a ball tampering scandal against South Africa.(Photo By Vishal Bhatnagar/NurPhoto via Getty Images) (Photo by Vishal Bhatnagar/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Where To Next For Ajinkya Rahane?

Ajinkya Rahane is a great batsman – in the Test, One Day and the T20 formats. Throughout 2015 and 2016 he averaged close to 50 in 20 Tests, with five centuries under his belt. For the Tests he played away from India during this period he averaged an impressive 57. As a Test batsman he has shown the class, temperament and ability to adapt to different conditions and environments. Rahane is an exceptional Test batsman with an impressive record without question.

Although seen as a Test specialist, Rahane has impressed in the ODI format. In 2017 during India’s home games, Rahane was a crucial part of the ODI team with key performances against both the West Indies (where he won man of the series) Australia (where he averaged 48). Ajinkya Rahane was mentioned as being a serious inclusion for the 2019 World Cup team recently. This was due to his technique in seam friendly conditions. With regards to T20 cricket, where Rahane’s strike rate is often brought into question, he had success during IPL with the Rajasthan Royals. In 2015 he averaged close to 50 with a strike rate of 130. In 2016 he averaged 43 with a strike rate of 126.

He has shown form and consistency whilst playing for India – in the Test, One Day and the T20 formats. However, he has not been his prolific self recently.

A Serious Lack Of Form

Surprisingly, despite his accolades across all three formats, Rahane finds himself unsure of his position in any format. He was dropped for the first two Tests against South Africa due to poor performances against Sri Lanka. In the same series, players such as Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Murali Vijay, Virat Kohli and KL Rahul were all able to make multiple impactful innings against Sri Lanka. Rahane on the other hand had a single century, scoring 132 in the second Test against Sri Lanka. He didn’t score more then 17 in the six innings following this. In the series against Australia, he also struggled with the bat, with a highest score of 52 in eight innings. To make matters worse, Rahane again couldn’t find his feet against Afghanistan in their debut test. A Test where once again senior players, as well as new comer Hardik Pandya, were all able to succeed.
Embed from Getty ImagesA similar trend appears in regards to his form in the shorter formats. After an important 79 in the opening ODI against South Africa, Rahane once again failed to make an impact in the following five games. To add to his frustrations in the shorter formats, he had an underwhelming IPL over the last two seasons. In 2017 he averaged just 25. In 2018 he averaged 28. His strike rate was below 120 in both seasons. This is the same player who almost won the orange cap in the 2015 IPL and won man of the series against the West Indies. Rahane has found himself in a serious lean patch.

Where To From Here For Ajinkya Rahane?

In many ways Ajinkya Rahane is a very unpredictable player. At his best, you can argue that he has the most talent in the Indian team alongside Virat Kohli. At his worst, you question whether he should be making way for younger or more consistent players. His proven track record has given him the benefit of the doubt, however at this point patience is wearing thin.

The ODI and T20 teams are without Rahane, despite him being once considered crucial for his technique against the moving ball in England. This is an ominous sign for Rahane making his future playing in the coloured kits in doubt. In addition, up and coming players such as Prithvi Shaw, Mayank Agarwal and Shubman Gill will make Rahane’s long term future with the Indian team even more challenging. If Rahane is to find himself back in the ODI or T20 teams, he will need to make the most of every chance he gets.

The upcoming series against England will be a pivotal series for Rahane and might determine how the remainder of his career pans out. Can Rahane get back to being one of the most eye pleasing and consistent Test cricketers India has ever produced? Can he bring back his form as a reliable opener or middle order batsmen in ODI cricket? The upside would be Rahane finding his form and forming the leadership group along with Virat Kohli. The downside would Rahane going down the same path as players likes Gautam Gambhir and disappear to only be seen during the IPL season. The latter would be a real shame for Indian cricket. Rahane is an excellent cricketer, and the old saying ‘form is temporary but class is permanent’ has rung true for Rahane in the past. However this might be the last chance to bank on Rahane.

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