He had just returned from Australia after a memorable series win, led by his own century – one of the finest played by an Indian in an overseas Test, under pressure – and was welcomed a hero.
Things though have gone pear-shaped since that welcome for the Indian vice-captain.
He’s been averaging around 19.5 in his last 19 innings, has managed just two fifties, has dropped to No. 6 in the batting order, looks uncomfortable not against James Anderson and Chris Woakes but Moeen Ali.
He’s got many problems and little time.
Since that match-winning hundred under extreme pressure at the MCG Rahane has had scores of 27, 22, 4, 37, 24 (in Australia), 1, 0, 67, 10, 7, 27 (vs England at home); 49 and 15 vs (NZ in the WTC final) and 15, 5, 1, 61, 18, 10, 14, 0 in the current series. While his 61 at Lord’s in the second innings was an important knock in the context of the match, such knocks are coming too infrequently.
After a demotion to No. 6 in both innings at the Oval, followed by a duck in the second innings, the ‘whisper campaign’ against Rahane that legendary batsman Sunil Gavaskar alleged during the Lord’s Test, has grown into a cacophony.
Can Rahane help his cause going into this Test match starting now? Can he convince Virat Kohli and the team management that he be offered another opportunity to contribute in the manner expected of him? Can he find an answer to a gamut of problems over the next 24 hours before the Playing XI is decided?
Rahane-the-batsman has been too hard on himself. “He tends to overthink”, some say. Others insist he “lacks hunger”.
Hanuma Vihari is sitting on the bench. There’s Surya Kumar Yadav too. The team has options. If not for the hundred at MCG, the writing would’ve been on the wall. Rahane will know.
An average of 39.63 for a No. 5 batsman with 78 Tests doesn’t augur well. Worse, that average dips to 22.70 against England. He’s gone without a hundred for 20 innings now.
Batting coach Vikram Rathour though had said at The Oval, that Rahane would not be dropped.
“Not at this point. I don’t think we have arrived at that point where Rahane’s form should become a concern. When you are playing cricket for a long time, you will have phases when you will not get runs,” the former India opener and selector had stressed after day four.
The phases are coming thick and fast. One’s not even sure what’s been troubling Rahane.
The LBW to Chris Woakes in the second innings at the Oval looked disturbing. He was nowhere in line of the ball that he probably tried playing a fraction of a second too early. He looked blank. Rahane looked at Kohli to figure if he should seek a referral. No.
“Is it the last time we’re seeing him in Test whites?” experts asked on air as Rahane walked the long walk back!