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My first-class average is 63.35. I have travelled a lot with the Indian team. When openers fail, I am not picked; when middle order fails, I am still not picked. I wonder if I am good enough for this beast called Test cricket
December 14, 2012
Hello. My name is Ajinkya Rahane. I made my first-class debut as an opener in September 2007, in the Mohammad Nissar Trophy, which used to be played between Ranji champions and Quaid-e-Azam champions. I scored 143 in that match. In the coming season, Wasim Jaffer was dropped from the Test side, and he came back to Mumbai as an opener. So I moved down to No. 3. I might have scored a duck in my first first-class innings as a No. 3, but I ended that domestic season with an average of 56.50.
Since then, if you take out one disappointing tour of the West Indies, with the India A side, I have never averaged below 56.85 in any first-class season. My overall first-class average is 63.35, and only 37.34 in List A. Accordingly, I was picked for the side that the touring Australians played against before the Tests in 2010-11. I was only 22 then. I scored a century in that first-class game, but lost out to Cheteshwar Pujara as replacement for Sourav Ganguly, who, too, had been scoring heavily in domestic cricket.
I went back to Ranji and kept scoring runs, batting anywhere in the top three. I thought that gave me a better chance of making it to the Test side, because I could now play both as an opener and in the middle order. I was prepared to wait. After all we had three greats in the middle order and two settled openers. Then I saw the openers take rest. I saw the replacements fail. I saw the original openers come back and fail. My chance, though, came in ODIs, despite my averages in domestic cricket suggesting my stronger suit was not the limited-overs game.
I was not one to complain. I made the most of my ODI debut, which came thanks to a glut of injuries to first-choice players. I made decent runs in that ODI series. Some even said I was one of the few bright spots on a tour of England where we lost practically everything. Now the middle order was failing too. I knew my chance in Tests couldn't be that far away. Pujara was injured, Suresh Raina had failed. For the home Tests against West Indies that season, India went back to Virat Kohli. He is a serious batsman, and I didn't see anything wrong in giving him more chances.
Then came the tour of Australia, and I and my team-mate from Mumbai, Rohit Sharma, were both on that plane. He was a back-up middle-order batsman, I could fit in anywhere in the order should the need arise. We had both travelled a bit with the squad without getting our debuts. He too had a much better first-class average than List A, but had been persisted with only in limited-overs cricket.
Still we were excited to come to Australia. It soon turned sour. Throughout the tour we saw the openers and the middle order fail with remarkable consistency - except for Kohli - but we never got our chance. Sometimes, especially a day before the Test, we would go to a corner in the nets, and give each other throwdowns. I can't reveal here what the team's reasons for persisting with failing batsmen were, but I read in some newspapers and websites that the selectors were wondering just the same. The captain and coach, though, reportedly said they were waiting for the selectors to make the tough calls.
Anyway, the tour got over, I came back to India, and scored a hundred in IPL, which surprisingly made far more people ask why I was not being picked. I wished I had known earlier that it was so easy. Either side of that IPL, two of the greatest Indian batsmen ever - Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman - retired.
Two places opened. Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane in, right? Wrong. Rohit was dropped for his poor run in the one-day game, which, at least statistically, is not his preferred format. Me, I lost out to Raina, who was now getting a third bite at the cherry. He failed again. The other place went to Pujara, who had recovered from his injury. He duly claimed it.
Still, there were eight home Tests remaining. Raina had failed, and I was expecting a debut against England in Ahmedabad. Enter Yuvraj Singh, who had recovered from his illness and had scored a double-century in Duleep Trophy. As soon as he was named in the squad, I was sure I won't play the first Test. He is a left-arm spinner too, and they say Kevin Pietersen is suspect against them.
Now a new season began with me not knowing where and for whom I will be playing. One day I am playing for India A against the touring Englishmen, the next I am playing Ranji Trophy for Mumbai, and in the next week I am carrying drinks for India. The Indian batting meanwhile keeps failing after the aberration in Ahmedabad. Calls for change are big as India trail 2-1. Now even Yuvraj has failed and has been dropped.
Surely now I will play in Nagpur? I had another think coming. Ravindra Jadeja has scored two triple-centuries in Ranji Trophy, which I can't do because I don't even know when I will be released to play Ranji and when I will be asked to be the 12th man. Jadeja bowls left-arm spin too. I am confused, though. When openers fail, I am not picked; when middle order fails, I am still not picked. I wonder if I am good enough for this beast called Test cricket.
Okay, I think, triple-centuries are not a joke. Let's see how Jadeja does. As a bowler he is steady, but India have three other specialist spinners in the side. On day two, Indian batting fails again. They are 71 for 4. Now that's a debut, I think. But enter the captain at No. 6. Oh well.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Sidharth Monga
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