Is it time for veteran Ajinkya Rahane to leave now?

Ajinkya Rahane has been poor with bat in recent times.

A common saying in life goes something like this – you shouldn’t overstay your welcome. It simply means that when the right time comes, you must leave. Before they ask you to do so. For the latter can never be any fun, can be full of pain, duress and needless hassles.

In cricketing parlance, we understand this better through Sunil Gavaskar’s retirement. When he was feeling low and thought that this was it- he just decided it was it. And, no more! Left before anyone could even question- when are you leaving? Don’t give them a reason to have angst. Is there any harm in letting people miss us fondly instead of remembering us woefully?

Today, if you are Ajinkya Rahane, you are probably caught up in this maze. First is when to leave. Second being, whether to leave at all. And truth be told, if the responsible, respectable and much-liked right-hander doesn’t leave anytime soon and decides to stick to the side to which he’s not contributing anyhow, he would achieve what he can probably forego.

Overstaying his welcome. What good can that serve anyway? Most recently, in the very contest his team won, Ajinkya Rahane contributed with a duck. A great sight it certainly wasn’t, a strange one it actually was. On the same wicket, another struggling teammate of his, Cheteshwar Pujara, scored 61. Yet, another struggling batsman by the name of Virat Kohli, one who happens to be among the world’s best bats reached a fighting fifty.

But was that all? In the victorious outing for his team, at Lord’s where even Bumrah and Shami were found chipping away at the English bowlers, Rahane’s contribution was 1 off 23 deliveries. This came in the first inning. By that time, he’d already registered a score of 5 in the series-opener, the very contest where his captain compiled a duck and Pujara made 4.

So something had to give in the next inning at the Lord’s Test you wondered. That is where Rahane, his critics would tout from god knows where came out with a top score of 61 in the fourth inning! Finally, it seemed the old Ajinkya Rahane was back except he wasn’t.

His immediate performances in the aftermath of the Lord’s Test were 18 and 10. These aren’t very poor scores but only if you are a newcomer in the game at the highest level or let’s assume facing a Jimmy Anderson in 2011. But in reality and in the current mix of things such scores are intolerable when you are second-in-command of your team. If the captain isn’t scoring, then how big a crime is it on the iconic Virat Kohli’s part to expect some standout performances from his deputy?

For a batsman whose middle name seemed to be composure, today Rahane himself is devoid of it nowadays. Right? A solitary fifty having played 11 Test matches this year, Rahane managed an average of just 19. And yet, on top of that, how he hit 2 fifties in this very year of his downing is something neither he can tell nor any cricket intellectual.

Probably it’s not about ability, which cannot be questioned but rather, the case of a lack of it coming to the fore in testing conditions. The bowlers can’t be blamed right? Unless you engage in fanboy-speak that Rahane has found to his dismay very stern bowling attacks this year that shouldn’t bowl at him.

But how defeatist and silly would that sound? Once a thorn in the path of the best bowlers, today Ajinkya Rahane is struggling to achieve small aims in the game. Get to a score of 10 first, then try to get into the twenties, then aim for a forty. So on and so forth! Yet, nevertheless, if there was ever a need for self-contemplation, then now is the time.

The batsman we knew would tire out bowlers without getting caught up in his own shell. He’d wait for the opportunity to score, wait for the bad balls and keep chipping away. Today, that very batsman, who still commands respect, one you’d never troll is struggling to survive overs forget batting out sessions. That’s when he too, much like Virat Kohli, is in the vanguard of the leadership of his team.

Some would say Rahane could bat slightly out of the crease to deny the great movers, swing. Others would say, he should really focus on first getting himself in, eye a few balls and then go for it.

What’s next for Ajinkya Rahane?

The theories are endless as is the plausibility of expecting a Melbourne-like century soon. Not that it is impossible. But what’s also pragmatic is to sink in the thinking cricketer’s current batting average: which is under 40. What Ajinkya Rahane comes out to bat with in the next and thus.

What’s known, however, is that time and tide and selection of Indian teams, wait for none.  Truth being, if the man behind those north of 4,700 runs cannot score now, then one suspects the worst might happen. And it’s that, India will bring someone else to do what Rahane is so successfully failing to do – make runs.

Here’s what’s worse. His current batting average is under 20 versus England. But the saddest part of being a Rahane fan, in particular, is to know that he’s not getting any younger and that there are, if not more, then some twenty others waiting to break into the side and take his place. Such is life too, and such is cricket, unsurprisingly so.

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