The team found itself in a precarious position in the second innings too but Rahane again stepped up, in the process scoring his first century after more than two years.
India were struggling at 25 for three in the opening session of the first Test in Antigua with Cheteshwar Pujara and skipper Virat Kohli back in the pavilion.
Ajinkya Rahane—with his spot in the side questioned—walked in at No 5 to face the inspired West Indies attack. And he did what he has done throughout his Test career, showing immense restraint in the company of KL Rahul, easing the pressure and taking the team to safety.
The team found itself in a precarious position in the second innings too but Rahane again stepped up, in the process scoring his first century after more than two years—and 17 Tests and 29 innings—to silence his critics.
His long-time coach Pravin Amre, the former India batsman, said ‘six-months of hard work’ went into what Rahane achieved at North Sound over four days.
Amre, scouting head of Delhi Capitals, feels India can’t do away with Rahane. “I always believed he has got an important role to play in India’s batting unit. When Pujara and Virat are back in the pavilion, you need a player who has technique and temperament to blunt the opponents, and Ajinkya perfectly fits that role. Also, the team management has always backed him,” he said on Monday.
Amre felt though Rahane didn’t get big knocks—since his 132 against Sri Lanka in August, 2017—he always played crucial innings to get the team out of trouble. He cited the example of his aggressive 48 in the Johannesburg Test against South Africa in January 2018 and 81 in the Trent Bridge Test against England in August last year.
“For any batsman getting to the three-figure mark is great but in the end it’s just a number. Over the last one-and-half-years his contribution was always there. We were always confident a 100 was around the corner.”
What Amre likes about Rahane is his work ethics and willingness to spend long hours in the nets to make those small adjustments.
“He wasn’t picked for the World Cup, also lost his Rajasthan Royals’ captaincy, so many things have gone against him but he still managed to keep his cool. Throughout he kept working on his game.
“What I liked was the way he prepared. He went to play County; he got some runs but the struggle was (against) their Duke’s ball; but he got through that grind. He came back and practiced at NCA.”
While Rahane did get the monkey of his back, Amre rates the 81 in the first innings higher as the situation demanded he play in a restrained way and the Mumbai batsman did that.
Amre feels the next challenge for Rahane will be consistency. “When you achieve something, you have to look to repeat that performance. He also needs to express his feelings. He shouldn’t be an introvert because that hurts sometimes. He should put forward his views,” added the former India batsman.