Ajinkya Rahane was India’s best batsman in the World Test Championship (WTC) Final 2023 against Australia, which India lost by a big margin of 209 runs at The Oval, profligating their second straight opportunity to win the ICC Test mace and ending their ICC trophy drought that has now extended for 10 years, the last one coming under MS Dhoni in 2013 Champions Trophy.
The Maharashtra-born Ajinkya Rahane played a terrific knock of 89 runs in India’s first innings – the top-scorer in the innings for his team – and it was because of his partnership with Shardul Thakur that India avoided the ignominy of conceding a follow-on. In the second innings, he was India’s second-highest scorer with 46 runs, only three runs behind Virat Kohli’s 49.
And now not only Ajinkya Rahane is set for an extended comeback, the second wind in his Test career, but there are some who also are championing him to become India’s next Test captain, replacing Rohit Sharma.
Ajinkya Rahane was discarded by Rohit Sharma, Rahul Dravid and the selectors in 2022
But it’s really ironic to think that, because, not too long ago, Ajinkya Rahane didn’t have a place in the Indian team, and it was felt that his Test career had ended.
However, good form in domestic cricket, which was followed by arguably Ajinkya Rahane’s best IPL season, as we got to see him in a new yellow jersey of CSK and a new aggressive avatar as a batsman, coupled with injuries to Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul paved the path for his comeback to the Test side. And the 35-year-old grabbed his opportunity – which had felt like it would be his only opportunity to make a mark, and vindicate his selection for this one-off Test match that was the WTC Final 2023 – with both his hands.
Last year, after returning from the South Africa tour, Rahane was dropped from the Test side – along with other seniors, Pujara, Ishant, and Saha – and that could have been the end of their careers. Pujara made his comeback soon after last year itself following a bumper County season and the absence of Rohit and KL Rahul from the Edgbaston Test, and then secured his place after Vihari failed to deliver at number 3. With Rahane’s number 5 position, India had options, but they turned toward his experience for the biggest match of all.
This leads to the question that whether Rohit Sharma and the selectors were correct in dropping him in the first place in 2022?
Just like they showed faith in him by bringing him back for the big game against Australia, Rohit Sharma perhaps could have fought with the selectors to keep him last year and not drop him. For experience and faith cannot be bought or replicated.