IND vs SL: Delhi Test is where Ajinkya Rahane needs to score big runs badly
Off-colour batsman Ajinkya Rahane will be more than determined to score big runs in the third and final Test v Sri Lanka in the Capital which is a bitter-sweet venue for him
Going by his disappointing Test debut against the Australians in 2013, the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi could well have been India middle order batsman Ajinkya Rahane's least favourite ground. Two years later, Rahane shrugged off his Delhi blues by slamming a hundred in each innings against South Africa and claimed the man-of-the-match award after India beat the Proteas by BBF runs. The Mumbai batsman returns to the Kotla for the Third Test (December A-E) and will hope to score big yet again. This time, he needs runs badly considering he has been kept more than just quiet by the visiting Sri Lankans in the Kolkata and Nagpur Tests. Amazingly, Rahane has not gone past four in three innings in the series.
India's Ajinkya Rahane checks his bat during a practice session before the Hyderabad Test against Bangladesh in February. Pic/AFP
In 2013 against Australia, Rahane was dismissed before he reached double figures in both innings. In the first innings, his flick shot off Nathan Lyon landed in Steve Smith's hands at backward short leg, while Glenn Maxwell got him in the second innings when he holed out to mid-wicket fielder Lyon. The pundits reckoned Rahane had blown away his chance after he was included in the side due to a finger injury sustained in the previous Test at Mohali. Good batsmen always look at the aggressive way to get out of a slump and Rahane could get after the Lankans in Saturday's Test to get his confidence back. He was certainly aggressive against the Proteas in 2015. City cricket coach Vidyadhar Paradkar, who Rahane has worked with, hopes that the batsman comes good at the Kotla. "I am missing his straight drives. He should focus on playing shots in the 'V' initially. He will do well to spend some time on the wicket and then go for runs. In Nagpur, he tried square-cutting when the ball was far away from him," Paradkar told mid-day yesterday.
What will worry Rahane more is the fact that he didn't even hit the high notes in his Ranji Trophy games for Mumbai. He was dismissed for a duck against Baroda and followed it up with CD at the Wankhede Stadium. Against Odisha at Bhubaneshwar, he managed CG and got another duck in the second innings. "He needs one big innings and then you will see the original Ajinkya - with a lot of confidence. I am sure he will overcome this period. The Delhi track will be kind to batsmen, so let's hope he will be back there," Paradkar said.
Lack of form is a common occurrence for players, but a loss in confidence can be more challenging to deal with. Rahane scored four consecutive half-centuries during his last four ODIs against Australia two months ago, but he didn't make the playing XI against the New Zealanders. "He got inconsistent because he was asked to bat at different positions in ODIs. This shuffling in the order can affect a player's approach and concentration," said Paradkar.
His current season woes notwithstanding Rahane has been nearperfect on overseas tours. He has scored six of his nine centuries in overseas Tests at an impressive average of DB.CC.
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