India's vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane is one of the most solid and dependable batsmen in the Test line-up. The 31-year-old, who has the right combination of technique, skill and attitude, has been a consistent performer for the Men in Blue over the years.
That is why his lack of runs on the recent tour to New Zealand, where he could manage just 91 runs in two Tests, came as a big surprise. What was particularly concerning was the way he got out in the last innings, where he looked totally clueless against the hosts' bowling attack.
All this has given fuel to his critics, who feel that Rahane may have played his last Test for India.
Skipper Virat Kohli has jumped to his deputy’s defence, and said that no individual should be singled out for India's loss to the Kiwis. Rahane on his part has largely stayed away from the spotlight, refusing to react to all the negative comments.
Rahane failing to score runs is a matter of concern not only for the player but also for the team. However, as Kohli pointed out, the problem was not just with Rahane, but with the top order as a whole.
Kohli himself failed to fire, and with Cheteshwar Pujara batting at his own pace, there was a lot of pressure on Rahane. The New Zealand bowlers too did their homework well, and prevented Rahane from getting any easy runs.
To break the shackles, the Mumbai batsman was forced to play shots which he normally doesn’t. "That (the pressure exerted by the Kiwi bowlers) is the reason why Rahane got out in a funny fashion," a source close to the Indian team management told Sportskeeda.
Many believe that Rahane cannot take things for granted, as the team management has shown it doesn't hesitate to take tough calls if a better option emerges. But are the trigger-happy ways of the Indian selectors starting to hurt the team?
India have lost three major Test series recently - South Africa (2017-18), England (2018) and New Zealand (2020). And a similar pattern has been noticed in all three of them – lack of stability.
The management dropped Rahane in the opening Test against South Africa, and ended up losing the series. A similar mistake was committed in the opening Test against England, when they dropped Pujara and immediately surrendered the initiative. The selectors again dropped Wriddhaman Saha in the opening Test match against New Zealand, with the same result.
"This Test team needs to have stability and the management should focus on that," a source said.
But now, with BCCI president Sourav Ganguly taking special interest in the situation and showing keenness to back proven players, Rahane can breathe a sigh of relief. Sources say Rahane has survived the axe for now by virtue of being the vice-captain of the team, and is likely to feature in the upcoming Test series against Australia.
"He will be ready for it for sure. Rahane's preparation was good for the New Zealand series as well, but it turned out to be something else," the source added.
The IPL being cancelled would be a big blow to Rahane, who must have been hoping to resurrect his form in the T20 tournament. But even if he can't do that, he will still get one more chance to prove himself.