India’s stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane reached his 12th Test hundred, and his second in a Boxing Day Test at Melbourne on Sunday. He became only the second Indian after legendary Vinoo Mankad to achieve this feat. However, Rahane’s rich exploits with the bat held significance for more than one reason.
When he walked into bat at No.4 with the score 61/2, Rahane went through hardships in the beginning. The loss of Cheteshwar Pujara almost immediately after Rahane’s arrival, meant he had the job of resurrecting the Indian innings before anything else. With Hanuma Vihari for company, and against the might of the Australian bowling attack, Rahane played one ball at a time, surviving through but with the scoreboard ticking. He was respectful towards the good deliveries, exceptionally punishing with the bad, and extremely solid with his leaves and defenses. It was this initial phase of belief and stability that rekindled the confidence amidst the Indian fans. And more importantly, relieved the pressure and guided those to follow.
The same relief was reflected in Risabh Pant’s watchful, but aggressive approach. His 29 with the bat could only be qualified as a short cameo, but it was crucial in the context of the entire game. It also eased Rahane a bit of his responsibility and allowed him to play his shots as well. Though Rahane gained a footing at the crease in the stand with Vihari, it was the partnership with Pant that made him comfortable. In continuation, Rahane continued playing to the situation, allowing his partners to first settle in and then begin scoring. The overnight unbeaten century stand between Rahane and Jadeja was also exemplary to the same. There were tough phases, the overcast conditions too made the ball wobble around a bit but Rahane remained up to each and every task. So much so that he went on to score his fifty in the second session and followed it up with a top-draw hundred in the third.
Sometimes you see a performance that mirrors a player's character. This century by @ajinkyarahane88 did just that. He can be so proud of this innings.
— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) December 27, 2020
The calm and responsible head of Rahane had shown the world his power and his ability to control the proceedings of the game without getting much involved in pre-match limelight or during-the-match sledging. Even as the leader of the pack, he played with much awareness and composure. With Rahane, it’s not always been about what he’s done on the field but often about how he’s done it or instead how everyone watching him feels he should have done it. Almost to say, all that he has previously done in the tough and challenging overseas conditions is not enough. But the maestro has only put his head down and regained focus to continue doing his sincere duties.
This was Ajinkya Rahane’s second century at Melbourne and perhaps the best he has ever made, signifying his real TEST-ing mettle. Even overall, it was arguably one of the best days in Tests from recent times for India, and Harsha Bhogle would put it, “Irrespective of the result, this very day of Test Cricket will be remembered for long.”
Going into lunch on Day 3, the Indians with a 131 run-lead have again found themselves on top but the important task of keeping Australia away awaits.