The much anticipated five-match Test series between England and India will start Wednesday in Birmingham. Many in the cricket fraternity believe this is the golden chance for India to beat the Three Lions in their own backyard and clinch the Test series.Also Read - India’s Predicted Playing XI For 2nd Test vs New Zealand: Virat Kohli Returns, Ajinkya Rahane Likely to be Dropped
The experts have been talking about the strengths and weaknesses of the No. 1 ranked side and what they need to do to bring down England. Also Read - My Heart And Soul With RCB: Virat Kohli After Being Retained by Franchise
While many believe India have the bowling prowess to take 20 wickets even without the presence of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah in the fickle English weather, the batting department is what many believe can let India down. Also Read - India Tour of South Africa: All You Need to Know About the World Class Bio-Secure Arrangements Assured by Cricket South Africa
Much has been talked about how India’s batting would rely on Test specialist Cheteshwar Pujara and skipper Virat Kohli and the contribution of the openers-be it Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul.
However, very little has been said about India’s unsung hero in the recent past in Test cricket-especially in foreign conditions—Ajinkya Rahane.
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In the recent five-six years, Rahane has not only been performing well but has played many match-winning knocks whenever India have travelled abroad. He, along with former Australian captain Steve Smith, have been recognised as the current batsmen who perform exceedingly well in away Tests.
There are many reasons why Joe Root and his men cannot afford to take the Indian captain likely in the Test series.
Best Average in Away Tests
While the number one ranked Smith averages 50.96 in Tests outside Australia and has scored hundreds in England, South Africa, India, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and the West Indies, Rahane, who is ranked 19 in the ICC rankings, averages 52.05 in away Tests.
The 30-year-old, who averages just 32 from 20 Tests in India, has scored hundreds in Tests in Wellington, London, Melbourne and Kingston, and fell four runs short of three figures in Durban in 2013, to go with two tons in more familiar conditions in Colombo.
Decent Record in England
The India vice-captain had enjoyed the tour of England in 2014 when he had scored a match-winning hundred on a green top at Lord’s and finished with 299 runs in five Tests with two other half-centuries. Against all odds, Rahane had scored a hard-fought 103 against the Alastair Cook-led side and helped India to register a victory at the Home of Cricket after 1986.
However, one thing to worry for the right-handed batsman has been his form in the past 12 months.
After scoring a hundred against Sri Lanka in Colombo, Rahane has scored more than 20 just once in nine Test innings. The slump in form even resulted in him being dropped in the first two Tests on the tour of South Africa. However, with scores 49 and 48 in a low-scoring match for India A in Worcester earlier this month, Rahane seems to have warmed up for the England Tests.
He knows patience will be the key, not only for him, but for his teammates if they wish to claim the Test series win and strengthen their top spot in the ICC rankings.
“In England, patience is the key. It depends on the weather — if it’s sunny it’s good to bat, but if it gets cloudy then definitely it’s good for the bowlers. As a batting unit, I feel that challenging yourself and backing your own game rather than copying someone else is important,” he says.
He says conquering one of the biggest stumbling blocks historically for Indian batsmen – success abroad – is a mental challenge as much as a technical one.
“As a batting unit, I feel that challenging yourself and backing your own game – rather than copying someone else – is important,” he said two days prior to the start of the first Test.
“And if you’re set, you have to try and play a big inning. If the weather changes and you’re set, it’s important to hold back, respect the bowling and respect the conditions. But if you’re really set, you should really make it count,” he added.
(With inputs from cricket.com.au)