Dubai: It was about a month back when the mid-season transfer window opened up in the IPL 2020 that a rumour was doing the rounds about Ajinkya Rahane. The vice-captain of Indian Test team and a former captain of Rajasthan Royals was yet to get a game for Delhi Capitals and the buzz was if a franchise like Chennai Super Kings, who was clearly missing on someone who could anchor the middle order or his former franchise Royals would be interested to rope him in.
Capitals, who qualfied as the second team after a nerve-wracking win against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Monday night, were then hardly putting a foot wrong with the top order firing and the team’s brains trust clearly preferring the brawn of Shimron Hetmyer at the No.5 position. This was in sync with what Ricky Ponting, their head coach, said at the beginning of the tournament that Rahane, more of a timer than a slogger, was not “an automatic choice” for the side chasing their first IPL title.
Soon after, with Rishabh Pant suffering an injury and opener Prithvi Shaw suddenly losing confidence, it was time for Rahane to ‘‘prove’’ himself yet again - as had been the case so many times in the past in his distinguished but often chequered career. He looked ready from the first match itself and was getting the starts but did not have the runs to show with only 51 runs from the first five innings.
It was then a poetic justice of sorts when in a battle of nerves against Virat Kohli’s men, and that too after four losses on the trot, Rahane found a bit more of the elbow room at No.3 position to score a classy 60 and struck a valuable partnership with Shikhar Dhawan, the other senior pro who scored 54, to chase down what could have been a tricky total. The calming influence of Rahane and the calculated aggression of Dhawan were possibly just what the doctor ordered after fumbling in a number of chases.
Never given to overt displays of emotion, ‘Jinks’ nevertheless admitted during a post-match chat with Dhawan that he was disappointed when he had to wait for an opportunity and the duo showed experience and class does have a place even in the slam-bang world of T20. While there is no disputing the fact that Rahane’s niche lay in red ball cricket, he has been a perfect example of being there, done that in IPL too where he has 3931 runs at a strike-rate of 121.58 - accumulated across a number of franchises like the erstwhile Delhi Dardevils, Mumbai Indians, Rising Pune Supergiant, Royals and now the Capitals.
While Rahane being among the runs augurs well for the Indian team for their demanding four-Test series against Australia in December, it’s also amply clear now that he has to act as an insurance in an often brittle batting line-up if the Capitals are to take that quantam leap from the play-offs to being first time champions. The recent poor run of Prithvi Shaw, skipper Shreyas Iyer’s lack of runs means it would call for some experience - especially in chasing targets.
Knowing Rahane, he would love this new challenge!