England v India, 3rd ODI, The Oval September 8, 2011

A light in India's darkness

India have had precious little to feel happy about during this tour of England. Ajinkya Rahane's performance in the limited-overs matches is one of them

Ajinkya Rahane has gone from being India's forgotten man to their man of the moment in the previous ten days. He's played only four matches in England but made a favourable impression in each one: after the 19 against Leicestershire, he made 61 on Twenty20 debut in Manchester, followed by an aggressive 40 on ODI debut at Chester-le-Street, and 54 in Southampton. The numbers aside, it's Rahane's approach and maturity that has been striking. It's led to questions being asked about why he was not part of India's Test team.

Called into an injury-ridden squad as a replacement for Virender Sehwag, Rahane joined the team a day before the tour match against Leicestershire. He lasted only 13 deliveries the next afternoon but managed to inject optimism into India's batting, which had been toyed with during the 4-0 defeat in the Test series.

Having been trained by former India batsman Praveen Amre, Rahane relies on his solid technique to gain the upper hand over the bowler. He is diminutive - 5'4" - but makes up in batting intelligence what he lacks in physical presence.

At Old Trafford, Stuart Broad and the rest of England's fast bowlers tried to push Rahane on the back foot by bowling several short-pitched deliveries. They were shooting in the dark, though, considering they had never seen Rahane bat. He remained undeterred and got under the ball to pull and hook with power and confidence.

At the Rose Bowl, Broad started with a perfect bouncer, but Rahane swivelled to pull over the deep square-leg boundary for a six. When Jade Dernbach bowled a slower delivery, Rahane waited patiently before glancing to the fine-leg boundary. Against full deliveries, he would move a step back, clear his left foot out of the way before chipping the ball over the in-field.

During the last five years, Rahane has been one of Mumbai's best batsmen at No. 3 and among the top five on India's first-class circuit. Batting with the likes of Wasim Jaffer, a wristy and aggressive batsman and an India Test opener, Rahane learned the art of pacing his innings. He has never been a grafter, though.

Rahane has had immediate impact for India in the limited-over games, constructing useful opening partnerships with Parthiv Patel, something the Test openers could not do. Ther right-left combination, as a result of injuries to Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Sachin Tendulkar, has had stands of 52 39, 82 and 30.

"I had not prepared at all before coming here," Rahane said about his mental preparations for the tour. "I understood the conditions only once I reached here. I was not thinking too much. Obviously there are certain expectations when you play for India and I was nervous to begin with. But all the seniors and team-mates helped me settle down, supported me and gave me good guidance. It felt really good."

Rahane said that after working hard to get to this stage, there was no chance he was going to be casual. "Once I arrived I had a word with [Sachin] Tendulkar, [MS] Dhoni and [Rahul] Dravid. Every one of the seniors said not to think anything except to carry on playing the way I had played to get here." They also asked Rahane to make sure he learned something new from each game.

When asked by a journalist if he'd enjoyed climbing up to the Big Ben during the Indian team's visit to the House of Commons, Rahane did not entertain the question, revealing where his priorities lay. "This is not the time to talk about such stuff. My focus is on doing my best for the team and making sure we win the one-day series."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • raheel on September 9, 2011, 16:52 GMT

    no real talent.....dark future for india

  • Sonny on September 9, 2011, 16:46 GMT

    Look at the pathetic situation......opening bowler in the sixth over and dhoni standing up to the stumps.......so everyone knows that india is playing with 5 spinners in this match and dhoni is to blame for the match team selection....i saw no reason why a genuine fast bowler is warming the bench.........not the brightest move here

  • Raven on September 9, 2011, 16:12 GMT

    Only positiveness about this tour for India is Praveen Kumar and this Rahane. PK has developed in an overnight in leaps and bounds. He bowls with lot of accuracy and more importantly, a lot of venom. The kind of bowler who believes in himself to make something happen with every delivery. Rahane on the other hands has started off well. Way better than Sehwag (because he has much much better foot work and seems to have a head on his shoulder) and Tendulkar (because he doesn't seem to be playing for himslef). Good luck to the youngster.

  • Dummy4 on September 9, 2011, 15:29 GMT

    Pujara, Rahane , Rohit sharma ( needs to get bit more fit, work little harder ) , Mukund, Kohli (failed now but so did ganguly intially) and perhaps Tiwary ( been unlucky everytime been selected) will form core of batting to come for next 5 years............unless some exceptional batting genius pops up in between.

  • Muhammad on September 9, 2011, 14:14 GMT

    I think India gonna face same treatment in ODI's.

  • Subash on September 9, 2011, 12:42 GMT

    OK for all those jumping the gun let's not do the same mistake of labelling him as the next Tendulkar ....Dravid and what not. Let him play few test matches before we can judge him. Same things were told about Rohit Sharma. India's test cricket future looks extremely bleak unless we can also produce quality fast bowlers. These young future Indian batsmen cannot handle the short pitched delivaries and also have no technique to play in swinging conditions. To confopund the problem we have no bowlers who can bowl consistently > 140 Km/h. I guess it's time to focus on our national game of HOCKEY and stop playing CRICKET.

  • madhurendra on September 9, 2011, 12:25 GMT

    the averages are largely due to poor bowling and low standards n flat pitches; even test batting averages (all teams) of the past decade are a little inflated due to lower bowling stds and flat pitches; i also believe that both badri n even sharma couldve been decent enough test bats if selected at the right time and given a fair chance; however, there are a number of batsmen with high domestic averages in india who should never be near any test team; this reflects the fact that save for some quality spinners and the odd decent medium pacer indian cricket churns out few good bowlers- but r board isnt worried its still the richest; unfortunately there are no quality spinners in sight and only a few decent medium pacers at present; this impacts the batting - india has had only 2 periods of a number of quality batsmen both after mid 60s (there was always at least 1 decent bat always); this improved results but not by that much, wheres pontings 100 test wins vs an odd test win away?

  • Salman on September 9, 2011, 12:05 GMT

    English continue to torment Indian players - normal service resumed in Rahane's case too - gone for a duck at the Oval!

  • Vijay on September 9, 2011, 11:46 GMT

    @ Herbet: I agree that Rahane should concentrate on tests and try to find a sopt in the squad. However, I do not agree that the averages are just because of poor bowling. Irrespective of the bowling, you need outstanding talent and skill to be as consistent to maintain an average of over 60 in around 100 tests, which most of them have. I'm not sure if you are mentioning about Ajay Sharma and Badrinath, the others on th top of the list. To be fair to them and to Rahane, they have played 1,2 and 0 tests, respectively. People with those averages would have come good if only they got a few more chances. It is mainly because of the biased selection policies, that provide far too many chances to some preferred ones and far too less chances to others. If they have better averages against the same bowling quality, they probably are better than at least all the other Indian batsmen. Give these guys enough chances and then bury them if you want to. Don't base assessment on just matches played.

  • AKIF on September 9, 2011, 11:45 GMT

    I think its the time to rent services of Waseem Akram and give him a duty to find young talented fast bowlers from india and train them to perform at international level. Only good batsman wont help india to climb at the top & if some how they manage to reach that landmark again, then another clean sweap again can happen. Indian always have batsman to support the cause but never had top class bowling department.

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