Ajinkya Rahane has had a torrid time in Test whites for India since his last century, which came over two years ago on August 3, 2017. The Mumbai batsman has played 24 Test matches since, scoring only 696 runs at an average of 24. During this time, he managed only four half-centuries. Being a vice-captain of the Test side, the pressure to perform had always been immense on Rahane. However, he was unable to share the responsibility with the bat alongside the other senior players like Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara.
The immediate games after his 132 on Sri Lanka were the ones to forget for Rahane, with him failing to cross two-figure mark in multiple innings. His recent Test innings had been comparatively better, but it was still quite unlike his commanding presence on the crease.
Even when Rahane smashed a century in his first game for Hampshire in his county stint earlier this year, he was unable to build upon the momentum. In the next six games for the side, he scored only a single fifty.
And so, even as India’s no.5 failed to breach the three-figure mark again during the first Test against West Indies, the innings would inspire faith on Rahane from the team management. His gritty 81 at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium not only smoothened the blows from early setbacks for the side, but also paved the way towards a competitive total on Day 1 of the match.
When Kemar Roach found the edges off Mayank Agarwal and Cheteshwar Pujara, and Shannon Gabriel fed off Virat Kohli’s urge to play aggressive, Rahane joined KL Rahul on the field at 25/3. It was anything but an ideal position for the Mumbai batsman to come in. Moreover, Rahul has had his own issues with the inconsistent form. Being a senior figure, it was, again, down to Rahane to rediscover his mojo and steer India away from trouble. The batsman had been a somewhat similar situation not too long ago, when he came at number 4 during the practice game against Windies A. India had lost their opening pair and he joined Pujara, but nicked one to the wicketkeeper on the sixth ball of his innings.
This time, however, Rahane had been careful over the edges on a pitch which assisted dangerous movement, as was evident with the previous dismissals. The innings was slow and unlike Rahane, but it made sense when India had been in a spot of bother.
“What was important was to have a partnership going and still be positive in our intent” is what Rahane said after the end of day’s play, and the execution was impressive. Rahane and Rahul had not only been wary of the ball-movement, but were also quick to grab a run whenever possible.
“The partnership with Rahul was crucial at that situation. We were not thinking too far ahead. The motive was to play one ball at a time and take it on from there,” the Mumbai batsman further added.
After Rahul’s dismissal, Rahane forged An 82-run partnership with Hanuma Vihari with a similar intent. He did receive a lifeline when he was on 40 through a dropped catch by Miguel Cummins, but remained undeterred throughout. The century-drought may have been in his mind, but Rahane insisted that navigating India through the troubled waters remained a priority.
“As long as I am at the crease, I am thinking about my team, I am not a selfish guy. So yes, I am not too concerned about the hundred as I thought 81 on that wicket was really crucial as we are now in a decent position,” said the batsman.
Rahane may have not found the soul-soothing three-figure mark, but his innings leaves India in a stronger position than when he came to bat. With India at 203/6 and Rishabh Pant and Ravindra Jadeja at the crease, the Indian vice-captain has ensured that the bowlers will have a considerable margin when Windies come out to bat.