Ajinkya Rahane is a team man and one of India's most valuable players
'Jinks' has been shunted up and down the order ever since he's started playing but he's never allowed this to bog him down; on the contrary, he's lapped up new challenges to become India's most valuable player in Tests, writes Aakash Chopra
Nobody can stop the clock from ticking but special players have the ability to slow it down. They seemed to have more time than lesser mortals to process the information their eyes provide and for their body to respond appropriately. Kumar Sangakkara had this rare gift and cricket will be poorer after his departure. He was indeed a true ambassador of the game on and off the field.
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India's Ajinkya Rahane en route his 126 against SL on Sunday. Pic/Solaris Images
While the second Test match between Sri Lanka and India will always be remembered for Sangakkara's last Test match, it might also be looked at as the stepping-stone for this young Indian Test team under Kohli. After winning the first Test in Galle it was quite certain that Sri Lanka would dish out a nice batting surface for the second Test and they didn't disappoint.
The pitch that's notoriously famous for helping seam bowlers had negligible help for all kinds of bowlers in this Test match, and that's why this Indian win is special. The Indians played a classic Test match in which they kept tightening the noose a little everyday for the first four days and then went for the kill on the fifth. The lesson from Galle was not to lose a session so badly that you can't recover and India ensured that. Even though a few sessions went Sri Lanka's way India neither lost five or more wickets nor leaked over 150 runs in one session, the lid never came off.
Rahul's fine record
It was also interesting to see how life comes a full circle. Shikhar Dhawan got a new lease of life because KL Rahul was down with dengue and now, Rahul stayed in the XI because Dhawan injured his right hand in the first Test match. But it isn't always about the number of opportunities you get but what you do with them and that's where Rahul has been exceptional. His two centuries in just the four Test matches has also opened a whole new possibility — he might be asked to bat at No 3 when both Dhawan and Murali Vijay are available. That'll also push Rahane to a number that he's more comfortable with.
While talking of Rahane it's almost imperative to use the word 'team man' in the same sentence. He's been shunted up and down the order ever since he's started playing international cricket but he's never allowed this to bog him down. On the contrary, he's lapped up the new challenges and become India's most valuable player in the longer format. His ton in the second innings laid the foundation for India's final push for victory. It's in his and team's interest that he's given an uninterrupted stint at a number of his liking, for too much tinkering with the batting order can be counterproductive. In my assessment he's best suited to bat at No 5.
It's time to shift focus on the bowlers, for batsmen can only set up matches and it's only the bowlers who can win them. Since it was a good batting surface it's only fair that their efforts are highlighted even more. R Ashwin, once again, has quite nonchalantly assumed the role of leading this Indian attack.
The dip, the turn, the drift and the bounce he's getting tells you that he's on top of his game, and that augurs well for the long home season this winter. Mishra has looked effective in patches and the two fast bowlers also contributed at crucial junctures. Bowling is always considered to be India's Achilles Heel but in this Test match they were simply flawless.