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Ajinkya Rahane, India’s quiet hero

Ajinkya Rahane’s half-century on day two of the World Test Championship final against Australia at The Oval was a poignant moment for the Indian batsman. After hitting Pat Cummins for a six to bring up his fifty, Rahane kept his helmet-covered head bowed, probably telling himself that all the hard work he had put in since being dropped from the Indian Test side in January 2022 was worth it. Rahane has been telling himself and his fans to be in the moment and that nothing else matters, whether he is playing for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy, scoring runs for Chennai Super Kings in the IPL, or leading India in Tests.

Rahane has played his cricket away from the spotlight, but he has managed to do extraordinary things. If not for him, India might not have won the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in Australia in 2020-21. After India were bundled out for 36 in the first Test in Adelaide, he took over the captaincy from Virat Kohli, who returned to India for the birth of his daughter. In the second Test, Rahane scored one of the best centuries in Test history to help India level the series. When Rishabh Pant hit the winning runs in Brisbane to help India win the series 2-1, Rahane stayed behind the boundary line, letting his bat make all the noise.

On day two of the World Test Championship final, Rahane faced an incisive spell from Cummins, including one of the best deliveries of the match that beat his outside edge and rapped him on the back thigh. But Cummins had overstepped. Rahane stayed calm and ensured that the scoreboard kept ticking. The boundaries came via the skillfully carved out steers between gully and point, and the punched drives off the front foot through covers. On a testing pitch against a high-quality attack, mistakes were bound to happen, but luck was Rahane’s pal more than once.

A century on comeback was denied by the catch of the Test by Cameron Green at gully, but Rahane did not bite his lip. He had done his job admirably, proving his worth again and helping Shardul Thakur stay at the crease despite being peppered by the seamers. Rahane’s down-to-earth nature, his willingness to learn and treat everyone as an equal, earns him the respect of his peers and former greats. That is what makes him a hero for youngsters.

Rahane’s innings was a blend of composure, calmness, skills, and courage. The challenge for him and the reason for being dropped remain the same – can he score the big runs consistently? But for now, he is the reason India still have some hope of drawing or even winning this Test. Rahane’s poignant moment was a reminder that he is a fighter and a hero who can lead India to victory in any situation.

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