Virat Kohli’s premature departure from the Border-Gavaskar Trophy was meant to have a detrimental impact on India’s Test side.
But following a remarkable eight-wicket victory over Australia at the MCG, the Indian squad may have inadvertently discovered a more equipped leader among its ranks.
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The cricket world heaped praise on Ajinkya Rahane after the Boxing Day Test match, and rightfully so.
Not only was the 32-year-old impeccable with his field placement and decision-making, but his resilient century on Sunday has been touted as one of the best knocks by a touring captain on Australian soil.
With the series now poised at 1-1, some pundits have questioned whether Rahane should remain Indian Test captain when Kohli returns.
Indian skipper Ajinkya Rahane celebrates his century.Source:News Corp Australia
Veteran cricket reporter Robert Craddock argued Rahane’s demeanour on the field proved he was more than capable of taking over the role permanently.
“Calmness is its own gold-plated virtue in cricket,” Craddock said on The Follow-On podcast.
“A couple of the Indian journalists have been saying to me that … Rahane is a better captain because the players play more for the team’s expectation and their own expectations, rather than Virat’s expectations.”
Craddock pointed to a specific moment early on day one of the Boxing Day Test when Rahane comforted debutant Mohammed Siraj.
“Rahane on the first day at the drinks break … put his arm around (Siraj), took him aside for a chat and said, ‘You’ll be right, we’ll get you into this game soon enough’,” Craddock said.
“He was putting his arm around bowlers, urging them through spells. It was just lovely, soft, sensitive captaincy — and I think that works better in the modern world.
“When they won the game … his celebration was, he took his gloves off. That’s all he did, shook the umpire’s hand, as if to say, ‘Yeah, 1-1 in a four-match series, I’m not doing star jumps yet’.”
India’s batsmen Ajinkya Rahane and Ravi Jadeja.Source:AFP
But the most telling moment at the MCG came following Rahane’s dismissal on the morning of day three.
After all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja unjustly ran out his skipper for 112, Rahane gave his teammate a reassuring glove punch in a classy act of solidarity.
Former Australian all-rounder Tom Moody tweeted: “Again (Ajinka Rahane) showing leadership begins with actions, his response to his fate was true of a genuine team man!”
World Cup winner Brad Hogg added: “Fantastic knock by Rahane! But the ultimate moment is his reaction after the decision, encouraging Jadeja with positive body language. True team man.”
It’s the third time Rahane has filled in as Test skipper and his third victory after wins against Australia (2017) and Afghanistan (2018). Only one other Indian has won their first three Test matches as captain — the legendary MS Dhoni.
The Indian Test side has also never lost a match when Rahane reaches triple figures with the bat.
Ajinkya Rahane should be our Test captain.
Rohit Sharma should captain India in ODI and T20.
Virat Kohli, like Sachin Tendulkar, is a phenomenal cricketer. But not great captain material.
Congrats India .. Winning against the odds is always special .. Has to be the best all round performance by a Captain we have witnessed for many many years .. well done @ajinkyarahane88 .. also @RealShubmanGill is going to be a star .. #AUSvIND !
Rahane looks a different player as captain, somewhat Steve Waugh-like in demeanour, with a quiet confidence that has pervaded the rest of this team. Everybody played with good common sense and just made winning a Test match look terribly easy.
Perhaps a controversial view, but Rahane seems much more tuned in as a skipper.. but more tactically astute, than Kohli. Obviously Kohli is not a bad captain, and even more obviously, India won't take it away #AUSvIND
Very impressed with Ajinkya Rahane's captaincy. Should replace Kohli as the test captain. Kohli is an ace batsman, but your best player is not necessarily the best captain. Remember Sachin Tendulkar?
Kohli’s record is unrivalled among Indian Test leaders. He has 33 wins and 13 draws from 56 Tests in charge – a winning percentage (58.9) that is the fourth highest all-time behind Steve Waugh (71.9), Don Bradman (62.5) and Ricky Ponting (62.3) and far higher than Dhoni, who is next best for India (45).
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Indian coach Ravi Shastri called Rahane a “very shrewd leader” and a “good reader of the game”.
“I thought his calm composure out there helped the debutants as well as the bowlers,” Shastri said. “There was a calming influence out there in spite of losing Umesh.
“Virat is very passionate. Ajinkya, on the other hand, is very calm and composed, and it’s their characters. Virat is more in your face, while Ajinkya is quite prepared to sit back in a very calm and composed manner, but deep inside he knows what he wants.”
The third Test between Australia and India will commence on Thursday, January 7th.
— with James Matthey
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