It was a watchful start by Anjikya Rahane. He was on three off 13 balls when his first four came — a wristy flick behind square-leg off medium pacer Lahiru Gamage. His next boundary came in the 10th over. This time he charged down the wicket and dispatched the same bowler to the cover fence.
Rahane is not shy of giving the first quarter to the bowlers. Then, he lays in wait for the right moment to break free.
About 40 minutes at the wicket and he was growing in confidence. Boundaries started to arrive more frequently. First, a pull off Angelo Mathews and then a stinging square-cut off Gamage helped him get into the groove. A six against Mathews over deep mid-wicket followed.
Thereafter, there was a brief period of lull during which Rahane got a life on 38. Kumar Sangakkara dropped him behind the stumps as he opened the face of the bat to a Thisara Perera outswinger.
Forty or thereabouts has been a dangerous number for Rahane of late. He has gotten out a few times at this stage of the innings in the recent past. He looks good, but throws his wicket away all of a sudden.
It was then, when uncertainty seemed to have crept in, that Shikhar Dhawan shielded his partner. The left-hander upped the ante at the other end, tore into Suraj Randiv and allowed Rahane to take his time.The latter sprang back to life after Gamage returned for his second spell. It was the 25th over of the innings and back-to-back fours got him up and running again. And there was no stopping him after that.
The best shot of Rahane’s innings was a whip over long-on to a shortish delivery from Mathews. It took him to 93. Three figures arrived soon with a single down the ground off Tillakaratne Dilshan.
It was the second hundred of his ODI career. The first one was scored in Birmingham two months ago, which marked his re-emergence as an opener in this format. Rahane was pushed down the order after a checkered first half of his career. Between September 2011 and January 2013, he scored 384 runs in 16 innings, opening the batting for India. Then, at No. 4 or lower down, he made 268 runs in 11 innings. Rahane was struggling to cement his place in the ODI team.
In Cardiff, Rohit Sharma broke his finger which ruled him out for rest of the series. Rahane was brought back to open the innings, and this time he grabbed the opportunity with both hands. The 26-year-old has scored 366 runs in seven innings since, including Sunday’s century. Rohit’s pain was Rahane’s gain and now the selectors and team management have a tricky choice to make.
A happy headache
Rohit has begun his comeback process with a hundred in the tour game and will be back in the fold soon. Who will open the innings then? Who will be the team management’s choice to partner Dhawan in the World Cup? Dhawan own’s good form recently — he has now scored two fifties and a century in his last seven innings — has added to this happy headache. While Rohit and Rahane have batted in the middle-order for India, Dhawan has always opened. So, among the three, he is the specialist up the order.
Between the remaining two, Rohit is more experienced with 3,479 runs in 124 ODIs. Rahane has 1,161 runs in 38 matches. But on present form, will he be dropped down the order to accommodate his Mumbai team mate?
“Rahane has the mindset of an opener. Also, the technique. We’ve worked on building the foundation… About the importance of staying at the wicket and building the innings brick by brick.
You’ve the opportunity to increase your scoring rate in this format of the game. Field gets opened up in the middle-overs. Also, you’ve a second power-play to fall back on,” Rahane’s personal coach Praveen Amre said, speaking to The Indian Express.
“Between Rohit and Rahane? Rohit is a class act. He has scored a double century, opening the innings. So this is a healthy competition, which is good for Indian cricket,” he added.