Before the 2012 IPL, Ajinkya Rahane wasn’t thought of as a bona fide T20 player. There was a lot of head scratching from pundits and fans alike when the Rajasthan Royals nabbed him from the Mumbai Indians and put him into one of their openers’ slots alongside Rahul Dravid. Rahane had been in the Mumbai squad for several seasons, but had got very few opportunities to shine. He caught the eye of the Rajasthan Royals’ through their all rounder Shane Watson who saw him score an 80-ball hundred in a session in the second innings of a three-day game against Australia A in 2010. Watto persuaded the Royals management to go after the Indian rookie. They succeeded in getting their man – and didn’t regret it. Nor did Ajinkya. “Opening the batting with Rahul gave me a chance to express myself and showcase everything I had learnt over the years.” He grasped that opportunity to express himself and proved the nay sayers wrong to the extent that ‘Jinks’ (as he’s known to his friends) ended up playing for India!
In his first game of IPL 2012 against Kings XI Punjab, Ajinkya hit a match-winning 98 and followed that up with an unbeaten 103 against Royal Challengers Bangalore. He also hit 84 off 63 balls against Delhi Daredevils. In that IPL campaign, Rahane became the first batsman to hit a century and emerged as the leading run-scorer for Rajasthan Royals. Rahane showed what a versatile player he could be, adapting to the pitch and weather conditions with ease. His trademark shot was the back-foot square-punch towards the off-side against the seamers. He also enjoyed hooking and pulling the ball. Against spinners, Rahane’s most-productive shot was the slog sweep-over mid-wicket. He combines superb timing with power, making Rahane successful in all formats. Watson’s judgment was impeccable, he’d picked a winner!
With Dravid guiding him over several IPL seasons in Royals colours, Rahane transformed from a shy, long-format specialist into a player capable of batting at any position, in any format. Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar said “What has been impressive about Rahane’s career is the way he has made those little changes that have helped him to get better in every format of the game. This batsman is a thinking batsman, who keeps working on how to get better.” Rahane is also a great team player – valuable in the dressing room when it comes to keeping spirits up and helping the even younger youngsters in the team improve their games. He has the potential to become an All Time Great.