Is Ajinkya Rahane a better captain than Virat Kohli? Is that a question even to be asked? Kohli has had a tremendous home season, the best for an Indian skipper. He has had 16 test wins now with a win percentage of 61.53%, the highest among all Indian captains. Rahane has just a lone victory standing in for injured Virat Kohli. What is the need for this comparison? Why fix something that isn’t broken, well if you look closely enough Kohli isn’t broken yet but beneath all that aggression, passion and will do anything to win there are small cracks developing. If not taken care soon enough we might even lose Kohli the batsman.
Before the start of the series, Kohli and co had successfully demolished New Zealand, Bangladesh and England. The first two oppositions were a cake walk, but England was tougher, but team India won by winning the important moments in the game. Australia were coming back to Asia, they lost 3-0 to Srilanka on their last Asian tour. Their inability to play spin was severely exposed by Rangana Herath. India had the best spinners in the world, Australia had two rookie spinners, one of them, Lyon who always gets hammered in Asia. India had the best batters in the world. In home conditions, it’s impossible getting 20 wickets against India. Australia were heavily dependent on Smith, Warner and Starc. India had a team, Australia had Smith, Warner, Starc and some passengers. India was expected to win 4-0. We won 4-0 under Dhoni’s captaincy against even tougher Australian team. Australia was supposed to lose, it was a foregone conclusion ,how bad were they going to lose was the only relevant question. It didn’t help when players like Harbhajan taunted the Aussies even before the test series started. After the first test Australia were supposed to be in chaos, there was chaos alright but it was in the opposite team, in the media , amongst the fans and especially in the mind of the Indian Captain. Once chaos sets in it works in maniacal ways.
In the second test Kohli started out in a combative on field approach. India won. But Kohli’s runs had dried up. It didn’t seem to help the fact that he appeared hell bent on getting more aggressive with his on field antics whether applauding the loss of an Australian review in Ranchi (despite the fact that Kohli’s DRS reviews looked more and more like ego satisfying reviews) or responding angrily to Glenn Maxwell’s shoulder gesture, Kohli’s mouth was doing all the talk rather than his bat, all this while his Smith was showing class with his bat.
Australia made no secret of the fact they intended to target India’s captain. They made life uncomfortable for Kohli, and for the first time in his international career he was unable to adequately respond, unsure whether to attack or defend.
His dismissal in Bangalore became a butt of social media jokes and memes. When Kohli ruled himself out of the decider in Dharamsala, it was seen as an advantage for Australia. There was further chaos among team India, but the beauty about chaos is that it works in both maniacal and magical ways depending on who is at the helm.
This is where Ajinkya Rahane made a difference. It was pleasure to the eyes seeing how India operated without Kohli in the middle.
Ajinkya Rahane turned a couple of weaknesses into strengths that sealed the series. Ajinkya Rahane is as different from Kohli in his demeanor on the field as it is possible to be.
He does not give the impression of looking for a fight even if you provoke him. His second-innings batting against the Aussies showed that beneath the calm exterior there was a beast unleashed from within. The way he was able to work with the Indian fast bowlers, showed good sense and strong character. He was at par with Kohli while making bowling changes and field placements, without being overly aggressive. Aussies who are notoriously provocative couldn’t find a way through Rahane’s tough hide.
India won the series, no one will question Kohli’s captaincy. But his honeymoon period is over. With away tests scheduled in England, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand in the coming two years Kohli is going to have a torrid time unless he focuses his aggression somewhere else but on the cricket field. Atleast after seeing Rahane on the field , Kohli would have learnt how to lead India next time around.
We won the series which is good, but unearthing Ajinkya Rahane’s captaincy skills is the greater good , a blessing in disguise. MSD 2.0?