South Africa v India, 2nd Test, Durban, 5th day December 30, 2013

Rahane showcases his No. 6 mettle


Dravid: Rahane, a huge plus for India

On this trip to South Africa, Ajinkya Rahane has taken blows from Dale Steyn bouncers that have not got up as expected, making his ducking technique look ungainly. He has also shown too much deference to a senior bowler who has shown scant respect for the specialist batsmen batting at the other end. He has paid for it, being stranded on 51, and possibly with a series defeat.

Rahane also got India two run-outs to save the team in Johannesburg. He also cut Vernon Philander for a six in Durban. For a man who had spent many a tour and series warming up the bench, carrying drinks, wondering when his opportunity will come, he has taken his chance with both hands, even though it arrived in the most difficult of conditions to bat in. Over the past 10 days of cricket, you can see Rahane has grown as a batsman. India knew they had Virat kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara; Rahane might just be their biggest gain from this Test series.

Rahane has gone about his work in a quiet unassuming fashion. Much like his batting. Most importantly, though, he has shown ticker. Even when he was taking those blows in the first innings from Steyn, and the verbals that came with it, Rahane didn't play a soft shot. He battled on, though it was questionable to give Zaheer Khan the strike with five deliveries to go in a Steyn over. Sure enough, two wickets fell in those five balls, including a dreadful swipe from Zaheer first up. It made you wonder if No. 6, a position which requires a strong personality and big-hitting when batting with the tail, was the place for him.

In the second innings, Rahane showed it was. He was clear in raising his hand to Zaheer, who wanted to the singles, sending him back to the non-striker's end. When the need arose for the big hits, Rahane got them successfully away even with eight fielders back. That cut for six, which took Rahane from 90 to 96, is not what many have seen in a Test in Durban. Rahane might have missed out on the hundred, but he showed versatility: resolute defence, concentration, firmness to farm strikes with seniors, willingness to look ugly in the pursuit of scoring runs, and big hitting when needed.

Rahane was India's only highlight on a bleak final day of what had otherwise been a decent series for them. "Rahane batted really well," captain MS Dhoni said. "[While] he was with us on bench, he kept working hard on fitness and technique, and how he wanted to approach his game. So when he got his chance, the most important thing was to accept it and do well. In this Test series has batted really well. Looked quite compact in all the innings. That's a big positive for us."

Rahane finished as India's third-highest run-getter in the series, but he was in the most precarious position of all before the series began. He is not picked for ODIs, which gives him no buffer if he fails in the Tests. He has had no soft launching pad. Like Kohli in the West Indies and Australia, he has had his first real series in testing conditions. Kohli was dropped after that West Indies tour in 2011 after he had some trouble with the short ball. Kohli has previously said that axing was a big lesson for him.

This 96 has made sure Rahane will not have to bounce back like Kohli had to. Especially not if he keeps wearing those blows as medals and keeps coming back up for more.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Tony on January 4, 2014, 2:50 GMT

    I think rahane is bettersuited at no 5 than at no 6. when one goes not out on so many occasions, time to give him his due than an unproven soul in foriegn soil. Hopefully he will establish himself at no 5 over time just the way kohli and pujara cemented their place. It is not irony that Dhonis favourite players like jadeja ashwin and rohit are not performing consistently.

  • Channan on January 3, 2014, 20:05 GMT

    We never seem to learn. One series and we praise the player to the skies. Suppose, just suppose Rahane fails in NZ. What would you say. What if Dhawan and Dhoni perform well in NZ and all the others fail. I am sure sticking to your overwhelming logic, drop all the other jokers and tour with these two. Of course, you need more players to make up the team. So back to the raffle system.

  • Naresh on January 2, 2014, 8:47 GMT

    @salil - we have too many passengers in the Indian test team. The last overseas outings can be seen. Dhoni is not a TEST batsman - he needs to be replaced by a player like DInesh Karthik. Rohit (as much as we see talent in him) is just not patient enough - we thought he turned the corner recently? Dhawan should only look at Shewag - it really hurts the test team when these guys are out early. In team selection we win when we take 5 bowlers instead of the 4 - Dhoni is answerable to this. I hope the recent selection of PANDEY will answer our pace bowling problem. Whatever happened to one fast bowler who was spoken of 3 years ago - ATUL SHARMA? WHere is he?

  • Dev on January 2, 2014, 4:55 GMT

    You are perhaps correct - Mumbai have always managed to produce good batsman over the years

    However, if you look at Indian selection over the years, you will find that Maharastra/ Bombay players were always preferred over players from other state. Rohit Sharma & ajit Agarkar are glaring examples or be it Sameer Dighe, Nilesh Kulkarini, Kanitkar, Bahutule, Kuruvilla etc... in the last 15 years or so

  • Dummy4 on January 1, 2014, 14:03 GMT

    This series showed that Indian batsmen can develop the technique to play on foreign pitches--with one proviso. Playing in New Zealand requires even better technique in cold,wet conditions where the ball will swing and seam like Headingley in all centres. Virat,Cheteshwar and Rahane have showed the technique, temperament and will to battle it out and graft for runs. Will Rohit show the same mettle? He has not done well in South Africa-- 4 innings is not enough to write him the way ESPN fans tend to do. He and Shikar just need to hone their technique a bit. Both are great batsmen capable of scoring big runs abroad. They are not like Yuvi and Raina who have been given exyended runs. Yuvi is suspect both against raw pace and swing. Raina the short ball and seaming conditions.

    Let us write them both off after a trial of at least 8 Tests --12 to 16 innings.


  • Harish on January 1, 2014, 5:14 GMT

    Just a reflection on the just concluded series; Based on these statistics, can we say Indian team has hope ? I say "Hello o Ya"

    Did they exceed expectations and will this hold them in Good stead and am I pleased.. Oh YES

    (SC = Subcontinent; AM=Away Matches; M=Matches)*

    India SC* AM* Age S Africa M* Age S Dhawan 3 2 28 G Smith 114 32 M Vijay 14 6 29 A Ptrson 28 33 C Pujara 13 4 25 H Amla 73 30 V Kohli 13 9 25 J Kallis 166 38 R Sharma 2 2 26 A B D 89 29 A Rahane 1 2 25 F D Plesis 11 29 M S Dhoni 81 32 J P Dmy 21 29 R Ashwin 15 4 27 R Ptrsn 14 34 R Jadeja 5 1 25 V Phldr 20 28 I Sharma 53 25 D Steyn 69 30 Z Khan 90 35 M Morkel 53 29 M Shami 2 2 23 I Tahir 13 34 U Yadav 5 4 25 K Abbott 1 26 P Ohja 24 0 27 D Elgar 7 26 B Kumar 6 0 23 R Klveldt 4 30 Avg 13.4 26.6 Avg 45.5 30.4

    For SA; since they played on Home conditions considered total matches. For Zaher, Ishant, Dhoni as they have played more than 50 matches considered total matches.

  • Natan on December 31, 2013, 16:13 GMT

    In general, players with maharashtrian culture (no offense intended towards others) grow up with learning how to be patient. We have so many examples so far. Because the upbringing is either tough or deliberately made tough. If one has to succeed regardless in life, they should find a maharashtrian foster family to live with for few years while growing up. Suddenly your sense of entitlement is brought down by 90%. Starting with parents, siblings, neighbors, teachers - everyone is extremely harsh with you. Ajinkya learned this naturally at home so he considered sitting on the sideline, a natural course of action. I'm just appalled that maharashtrian players still get the same kind of treatment that they have been receiving for years. Times have changed but the selection process is still biased in picking up players from all over india except maharashtra even though they prove their worth time and again. Well done, Ajinkya!!

  • Harsh on December 31, 2013, 13:49 GMT

    A more important question might be, that what is the other passenger (Rohit Sharma) in the team doing? He should not be chosen in the side for abroad tournaments.

  • Dummy4 on December 31, 2013, 11:11 GMT

    The difference in S.Africa between the 2 teams was indian bowling was not penetrative enough to contain all the batsman. If the top order scored less the middle or the lower middle flourished. Also the killer instinct was lacking amongst Indian batsman with the ecception of Pujara, Kohli, Murali Vijay and Rahane all others failed badly.

    No excuse can be given for this except poor captaincy ,poor execution of shots from the non- performing batsman., and lack of incisive bowling on the part of Indian team.