MS Dhoni and Shikhar Dhawan praise India’s World Cup star Ajinkya Rahane

Joy Chakravarty 05:15 24/02/2015
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Ajinkya Rahane was key to Indian success over South Africa.

In a team full of larger-than-life superstars, Ajinkya Rahane is an antithesis. Built like a jockey, he seems to be perpetually flying under the radar.

But as he proved once again the other night against South Africa, stealth does not mean he can’t be destructive. And you don’t always have to look like a blood-thirsty Viking to cause mayhem.

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While Shikhar Dhawan was soaking up the applause for a well-made century, Rahane went about his business in his usual unpretentious manner and slipped in an invaluable knock of 79 in just 60 balls.

The 26-year-old Mumbai batsman, looked upon by many as the one to fill the enormous shoes of Rahul Dravid, has been a picture of consistency in the Indian batting line-up across all formats of the game.

In 14 Test matches, he has made three centuries and has a very healthy average of 44.87. In 48 ODIs, he has two centuries and nine fifties and has a strike rate of 78.31. And in Twenty20s, he has the ability to up the ante, scoring at a rate of 118.

In the recent Border-Gavaskar Trophy series against Australia, Rahane, along with Virat Kohli and Murali Vijay, provided solidity to the team and was among the top six batsmen in the series from both sides.

That thin frame of his can generate a lot of power through sheer timing. That really has been the hallmark of Rahane’s batting.

On Sunday night, five sixes were struck in the India innings. Three of them were from Rahane’s blade, which is an awesome stat because the MCG has some of the longest boundaries in the world. The last of the three sixes came against Dale Steyn and was hit over extra cover. All he did was clear his feet and let the arc of his bat do the job.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni shed some light on Rahane’s character after the win in Melbourne.

“Irrespective of the format, in T20s, ODIs or Tests, he has really improved,” said the Indian captain. 

“He’s definitely one of the individuals who’s not really rigid. He is quite open to ideas. He is willing to try new things, and once he tries it out, he gives you a good response as to whether it’s working for him or not.

“Also, he is one of the fittest guys. You see him on the field, he’s very quick, and his intensity actually never drops right from the first over until the 90th over if you see a Test match. And that, I feel, is what fitness is all about. 

“He’s not someone who owns a position…in the sense he’s not somebody who wants to field, say only in covers. Wherever there is an opportunity, he’s willing to go there, whether it is the boundaries, covers, leg slip, anywhere. His strength while batting, I feel, is timing, and exploiting the field to a lot of extent. It’s really good to see him get that kind of runs, and how he’s getting it is really important for us.”

While Dhawan may have walked away with the Man-of-the-Match award, even he acknowledged the immense role of 26-year-old Rahane in the match against the Proteas.

Dhawan said: “He is our peaceful warrior. Jinks (Rahane) definitely helped take the pressure off me which enabled me to play my natural game.

“It was important that we stayed because the partnerships were going to be big for the team. We lost an early wicket, but I was relaxed. I knew once I was set, I could bring up the run rate again.

“They (Kohli and Rahane) batted beautifully. Virat at the start when we were under pressure, gave the stability, and Jinks’ strike rate was good, so I could relax at the other end.”

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