Ajinkya Rahane
Ajinkya Rahane
AFP

Southampton: Though India vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane has emerged as a strong contender for captaincy after leading India to wins in two out of three Tests in Australia a few months ago, his batting has become a cause of concern for the Indian team.

The Indian team's No.5 batsman has been below par with the bat, averaging 22.54 in 11 innings of seven Test matches that he has played this calendar year. The last time he scored a Test century was back in the second Test against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in December 2020. It was an innings that helped India script a revival in Australia following the humiliation in the first Test at Adelaide.

Rahane was soon talked about as a serious contender to replace Virat Kohli. But while his stock as leadership material grew, his outings at the remained unproductive. Some of his innings have been fighting on difficult surfaces but small in terms of runs and, therefore, overshadowed by some brilliant knocks by Rishabh Pant and other youngsters over the past few months.

In the last 11 innings, Rahane has scored just one half-century, a 67 against England on a difficult Chennai pitch in the second Test in February.

Sunday should have seen him get to his second half-century, a very important one. But he threw it away when he was just one run short of it.

Having mistimed a short ball from Neil Wagner, which fell in the vacant mid-wicket area, Rahane went for a pull again on the very next delivery from the left-arm seamer and scooped a catch to square-leg.

This wasn't the first time he had fallen to a short delivery from Wagner. On the tour of New Zealand in early 2020, he had chopped a short ball onto his stumps as he tried to work the ball to fine leg in the second Test in Christchurch.

No wonder former India batsman VVS Laxman wasn't impressed.

"This is something that has become a pattern with Rahane's batting. It was the same game plan that New Zealand used against him in Christchurch. This is something he requires to understand," said Laxman, who batted at No.5, a position where Rahane bats.

Another former India batsman Sanjay Manjrekar has blamed Rahane's state of mind for the struggles, although he praised the level of application he showed in the ongoing Test.

"The thing about Rahane is that there is not one particular mode of dismissal for him in the last few years when he has got low scores. So, I have always associated his dismissals and low scores with his state of mind," Manjrekar told espncricinfo.com

To bring home Manjrekar's point, Rahane has been dismissed five times by spinners and six times by pacers since the beginning of this year. He has been bowled, caught in the slips and at square leg against pacers. He has been bowled, caught at short leg and at cover against spinners.

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