Three weeks ago Ajinkya Rahane posted a video on social media of him batting in the indoor nets titled "Getting ready for England". It was a rather precarious condition for Rahane. The Mumbai rains had set in, there was still a month before the first Test, and he was no longer part of the Indian one-day or T20I team. He had led India in a Test match against Afghanistan 10 days earlier in Bengaluru, but all of a sudden he had the rare privilege of ‘time' to get ready for a Test series.
Time is a rare commodity for a modern-day cricketer and Rahane was desperate to utilise it in the best possible manner. From the short video clips, one can clearly notice the ball he batted against is the artificial swing ball. It is red on one side and white on the other, it is made of plastic and it moves prodigiously through the air. While it is not exactly like facing James Anderson or Stuard Broad, it is as close as one can get in the monsoon season of Mumbai.
The meticulous practice session is sure to hold Rahane in good stead, as is the case that he can solely structure his game on one format. With the white-ball cricket concluding on the tour, Rahane can concentrate all his energy on conjuring up methods and plans to succeed in the longer format. For a while now, his mind has looked scrambled trying to adjust between the different formats, and it has affected him mentally. The upcoming five-Test series presents him a wonderful opportunity to stamp his authority as India's most important player in red-ball cricket.
While all the attention will be on Virat Kohli, Rahane is likely to fly under the radar, a status he thrives on. He also has the opulence of having scored runs in England under the most demanding situations. His hundred at Lord's on a pitch that resembled the green pastures of a Swiss countryside was a sign of his enormous potential and quality. Rahane has the game to bat according to the situation; he can up the ante, coming in at 250/3, and can be equally effective at 30/3. In England, there will be situations where he will need to bat in varying circumstances. There is also the case that he will be the last frontline batsmen coming in at No 5, and will need to rally around the lower order. To keep it simple, he will be India's man for all scenarios and to have time to think about his role poses a wonderful opportunity for him to be the lynchpin of the Indian batting this summer.
Technically, Rahane is arguably the best equipped to handle the moving ball. He is also a furious puller and hooker, so this series presents him an opportunity to enhance his reputation as one of India's finest batsmen outside of Asia. Rarely in its rich batting history has India had a man that had managed to average higher outside the sub-continent. As of now, Rahane averages a mere 37 on the slow, low, turning tracks of Asia, but on the foreign pitches, his average skews over 50. It is a remarkable record, as well as a sign that India needs Rahane to continue his majestic touch if India is to win a series on the British Isles.
The only blemish in Rahane's game is against quality spin bowling, but with England not boasting a high-class slow bowler, it only improves his chances of accumulating runs this summer. Four years ago, Rahane was guilty of pushing too hard at the ball and resulted in him getting dismissed caught and bowled in three of his last five innings. It is an area he will need to rectify and from the clip he posted on Instagram, it is noticeable that he has made the conscious effort of playing the ball right under his eyes and waiting for the ball to come to him, rather than catching up with it.
With a month away from the game, Rahane is well poised to have a significant impact. Last week ever so quietly, Rahane spent quality time in the middle against the English Lions, conjuring up scores of 46 and 49. He will also have a hit-out in the tour match leading up to the Tests. Add to that the two weeks preparation in the indoor nets in Mumbai, and Rahane simply could not be better prepared for such a tour. He has no burden of white-ball cricket and his record overseas is outstanding. At the age of 30, one doubts he will get a better chance to prove to the world why he is on parallel with Kohli when it comes to red-ball cricket. Test cricket is his time to shine.
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