Mumbai has the legacy of producing batsmen of high quality for Team India. Having won the Ranji Trophy almost 40 times, the culture of Mumbai Cricket’s impact on Indian cricket is pretty big. The city can pride itself for having produced two of the top five batsmen ever to have played cricket in Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tedulkar. Among others, Vengsarkar, Umrigar, Wadekar, Manjrekar’s have all kept the flag of Mumbai high in Indian batting territory over the years.
However since the advent of Tendulkar, no Mumbai batsman was able to establish himself in the Indian team. Vinod Kamble sizzled for a brief period drawing comparisons with his long time friend Tendulkar but failed to fame and money wasting his talent. Sanjay Majrekar could not establish himself in the side despite a good talent. Amol Mazumdar was certainly unlucky to get into the Indian side due to the presence of four legends in the middle order. No other player from the cradle of Indian cricket could get into the test side.
Rohit Sharma came as a bolt in blue. He has exuberant talent. He is among the best batsman of the next generation in terms of technique. The Mumbai School of batting is evident in his class and shots. But he lacks the temperament and has failed to make a place for himself despite the ample opportunities he was presented with. For a guy of his class, low average in strong Indian batting order does not speak good.
At this juncture, Ajinkya Rahane was slowly establishing himself in the Indian cricketing fraternity. Year after year he was making runs and maintains a very high average of 68.47 in domestic cricket having played for 5 seasons. He came in the Mumbai mode of cricket making runs in every tournament from age level to the Kanga League and the Times of India shield. His intuition to the Mumbai Ranji side in 2007 was pleasant.
He showed his class by scoring 1087 in his second Ranji Season itself. He topped the charts as Mumbai strode out to win their 38th Ranji title. Ever since the batting of Mumbai team has revolved against him. The first evidence of class was prudent when he made 172 in Duleep Trophy against the visiting England Lions attack that had quite a few future England bowlers.
Rahane started churning out runs in domestic season, finding a place in the top ten run scorers’ season after season. He made runs all around the country and graduated himself to the Emerging players tournament. A good show there landed him a place in the depleted Indian side that went on the wretched tour of England last summer.
Rahane got his first Indian cap in the T20 match and immediately made the headlines. On a tour where no Indian was able to score barring Rahul Dravid, he announced himself with a classy 61 on debut. On a pitch favouring the bowlers, Rahane’s batting oozed class. The shots were perfect and there was no slogging. He immediately got into the Indian ODI squad and he had decent returns in the ODI series with 158 runs at 35.4. One needs to remember that it was a tour where the side failed collectively.
He got another stint with the side in England’s tour of India in October 2011, where Rahane opened the batting in all the matches. In a series where India won all the matches, he scored a master class 91 at Mohali leading India to yet another win. However an average series that time at home and return of Sehwag saw him being left out of the side after just two matches against West Indies.
His batting style always had the class and sound technique and he scores his runs with clear shots without slogging. But with the advent of IPL, glitz and glamour have taken the front seat ahead of quality in determining the effectiveness of the batsmen and here Rahane was pitch forked behind the more glamorous batsmen like Raina, Rohit and even Kohli. He lacked that X factor and along with Pujara, Badrinath and the likes, he found a place among the second row in the pecking order while more aggressive players made it to the squad only to fail.
His show at the first match of IPL 2012 for Rajasthan Royals against Kings XI Punjab can go a long way. It was another innings of Rahane where runs came in the old school fashion even in the latest format. There was no slogging and runs flowed as if they were manufactured with a sense of ease. Until he got out for 98, none of the bowlers were able to trouble him and his runs came in boundaries rather than lofted shots. The cover drive, on drive and the cuts had the characteristic Mumbai touch in it. No wonder that he is praised all around now.
With the flawed opinion of rating batsmen with their ability to score quick runs rather than their technique prevails in India. Under such circumstances, a good IPL can take this talented youngster a long way to find a place in Indian squad, something a 68 plus average in Ranji Trophy could not. With the side losing a warrior in Dravid and two more greats in their fag end of their career, the spots in Indian middle order will be opened up soon. The form of the openers is not note worthy right now. This could get Rahane the deserved call up in tests. If he can establish himself, Indian cricket is going to be served better. Hence a strong IPL for the man may not only please Sushmitha Sen but Srinivasan too. Team India needs him in all formats. Let us hope that he goes the way of Tendulkar rather than Mazumdar.