India in England 2014 August 28, 2014

Rahane must shake off 'soft' tag

With India in trouble against the new ball in Cardiff, India's No.4 played an important role in steadying the innings but, not for the first time, fell with his job only half done

Play 03:09
Rahane fails to cash in on start and is stumped for 41 in second ODI at Cardiff

Ajinkya Rahane brings with him a certain calm to the wicket. In the second ODI, in Cardiff, India were still in a bit of a free-fall when Rahane's turn to bat arrived. Shikhar Dhawan had edged outside off, an anxious-to-dictate Virat Kohli had got out for a duck, and Rohit Sharma - 6 off 21 at the time - was struggling. James Anderson got an extended spell, Rohit played some desperate shots and got away with them, but calmly and without anyone noticing it was Rahane who provided India some momentum. He didn't feel the need to dance down the wicket to cover movement or hit out, he found singles easily, and reached 40 at nearly a run a ball.

This is when Aakash Chopra tweeted: "Rahane has reached that stage in ODI when he's been guilty of throwing it away...hope he changes it today. Get a big one...a really big one!"

Five minutes later, Rahane played a forward-defensive to the offspin of James Tredwell. From round the wicket the ball went with the angle and beat the outside edge, which is fair enough, but Rahane had let his back foot drag out of the crease. That is soft for a good player of spin. Not for the first time in his ODI career had Rahane looked good. Not for the first time he threw it away. The consequence is an average of 26, which is not good enough for a top-four batsman. It also means he is not batting long enough to score the quick late runs, which reflects in a career strike rate of 73.

Tweeted Chopra: "'Looks brilliant till he plays a lazy shot'--Rahane's ODI career so far. Not fulfilling his potential. Disappointing."

Chopra speaks for everyone who has followed Rahane's career keenly. It began on the horror England tour of 2011. He was one of the few bright spots of a grim winless trip for India. He has moved down the order since then but all of his 31 innings have been played inside the top four. He has never stayed unbeaten. He has made starts every second innings - 16 of his 31 innings have been 20 or more. Only three of those starts have gone past 60.

Over the last three years, since Rahane's debut, his rate of failure of converting starts into really big innings is the highest. Thirteen of his 16 innings over 20 have ended under 60. Corresponding numbers for Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mohammad Hafeez and Ian Bell are 29 out of 38, 23 out of 32 and 19 out of 28. The really good players over the period have been in another sphere. Of the 41 times Kumar Sangakkara has crossed 20, he has been dismissed for under 60 only 20 times, Virat Kohli 16 out of 34 times. Rahane will want to get away from Bell and Hafeez, and closer to Kohli and Sangakkara.

What frustrates Chopra and others is that Rahane gets out softly. There are two kinds of soft dismissals. One to a poor ball that does not deserve a wicket. These are usually freak occurrences. Rahane is not falling too often to those. Then there are those small errors of judgements that you do not expect of a batsman who has got himself in. Least of all a Mumbai batsman. Rahane is as Mumbai as they come. Middle-class Marathi boy lugging his bags in trains to get a hit, surely Rahane knows to put a heavy price on his wicket? It shows at the start of his innings, but somewhere in the middle the concentration dips.

The worrying aspect is that this tendency to throw away starts is not limited to ODI cricket, even though Rahane has scored two centuries in his 19 Test innings to date. During India's disastrous downturn in the Tests, Rahane was one of the batsmen who did not look out of form or out of sorts. Yet he kept finding out ways to get out.

Since his Lord's century, he had scores of 54, 52 not out, 24, 1, 0 and 4. That 24, at Old Trafford, when he had weathered the storm on the first morning, once again bringing some calm to the Indian dressing room, will rankle, for he fell to a loose drive - by the standards of the situation and the conditions - minutes before lunch. India had nearly turned 8 for 4 into 62 for 4, but that wicket just before lunch punctured the comeback.

Tests will give Rahane more time, but the ODIs, and the World Cup, are almost here and now. MS Dhoni has always said he wants his team to have had the experience of various pressure situations that arise in ODIs before they go into the World Cup. He has always aimed at giving them at least 75-80 caps each before the big event. It will not be possible with Rahane, who has 31 right now, and has two-and-a-half series between now and the World Cup.

Yet Rahane has shown enough promise to have become a solid contender. Now he wouldn't want to carry this big-score bogey with him to the World Cup.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on August 29, 2014, 20:34 GMT

    Give the guy a break! Hardly put a foot wrong. Seems highly critical of a top class player.

  • Aravind on August 29, 2014, 16:00 GMT

    Rahane already proved he is there to stay..he is going to be the best ever no.5 batsman for India..every runs scored by him in test cricket is hard earned..he proved he can bat with tailenders and scored tough runs..he already played more match winning innings than is just a matter of time he flourishes in ODI cricket

  • Amarjit on August 29, 2014, 11:36 GMT

    The way Rahane got out was almost a replica of Sachin getting out against Sri Lanka in WC 1995 at Calcutta when he was in complete control of the game and Lankan's were worried lot. I feel Rahane has started playing better and will improve by the day, look at others how confident they were? Let us give credit where it is due, speaking from a distance and being there facing the music are quite different. He in way was rash or careless and if you ask me he should have been given not out. There is nothing like benefit of doubt to batsman practically left when it is referred to the third umpire. Why his views of replays not be limited to an x number of times say 3 or 4.and takes a decision. Going ideology of MSD of 75 to 80 caps is hilarious and quite cowardly,if airman Khan had followed the greatest amongst the Greats Wasim Akram would have missed some world cups.

  • Naresh on August 29, 2014, 11:00 GMT

    For India to succeed they need to reawaken Virat Kohli. Send him for a stint with Pravin AMRE. We have heard how Indian batsman have succeeded in AMRE's hands. In fact BCCI should employ this guy full time - he is one of the best batting coaches around.

  • Sharad on August 29, 2014, 10:25 GMT

    Rahane normally gets a lot of praise for his solid technique and calmness, which I totally agree with. I must say though his hitting is also awesome to watch which is complemented by his fantastic sense of timing. Hope he lives upto his potential. The game needs great players to emerge in every team around the world.

  • Dummy4 on August 29, 2014, 10:20 GMT

    Okay, what about Rohit Sharma..?? Rahane just played 31 ODI innings; and in case of Rohit, it's more than 150+ innings till now.. And still, he is satisfying the Rahane criterias..!! what about him then..??

  • Dummy4 on August 29, 2014, 10:14 GMT

    Rahane is a good touch player, who cant flex his muscles anytime, even in 2020. no big slashes or powerful square cuts or lofts, result of the selection bcos of Ranji format. My personal view, keeping the WC in perspective, better to try out new batsman and check out their guts and might, playing a swinging ball, dont mind losing this series either if i get confidence in new batsmen. Find an cold blooded attitude like Sehwag(in his priime), which chills the bowlers to their core.

  • Dummy4 on August 29, 2014, 9:50 GMT

    If only Rahane gets as much chances as Rohit Sharma got!

  • raj on August 29, 2014, 8:53 GMT

    Rahane can become a fine player. He possesses the technique and temperament to be amongst the likes of Laxman and even Dravid. However, Rahane seems to suffering from a lack of self-belief and confidence to make it big (like he has done in Ranji cricket) when playing at the highest level. If you recall Laxman also struggled for a long period (until his century in Aus) at the start of his career and Dravid scored fifteen 50's before his first century. But those greats always had that hunger and desire to succeed when there was no IPL. Let's see if Rahane shows has that same hunger and desire - Rahane and Pujara can lead India's batting in Test's for years to come. Rohit, Kohli etc will lead the shorter formats.

  • Sudeep on August 29, 2014, 8:51 GMT

    Rahane is work in progress in ODIs. The reasons for his soft dismissals, like giving easy return catches to Moeen Ali in Tests, is that he has repeatedly gone out to bat with Kohli and Pujara back in the pavilion within first ten overs. This puts intense pressure on him. Ask any batsman, even club level, and he will say there is a big difference when you go to bat with your team tottering at 18 for 3 off eight overs and, say 180 for three in 55 overs. How many times did the top four give Rahane and those below him the comfort of a good start. Zero, in the Tests against England. As far ODIs are concerned, Rahane can never evolve into a big hitter like Yuvraj or Dhoni. He will remain a batsman in the classical mould like Dravid. He is certainly not going to tear apart bowlers and return with strike rates of 90 or 100. Accept him as he is, or replace him with powerful hitters.