Ajinkya Rahane Plays His Best Test Cricket If He’s His Aggressive Self, Says Wasim Jaffer

Wasim Jaffer, the former India opener, is confident Ajinkya Rahane will regain his touch in the two-Test series against New Zealand starting in Kanpur on Thursday, going by the form the Mumbaikar displayed in the recent Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy domestic T20 competition.
Ajinkya Rahane, who will lead in the first Test in the absence of the rested Virat Kohli, had scores of 75, 54, 17, 69, and 71 in the recent Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. Former India batsman Wasim Jaffer reckons Ajinkya Rahane should bat positively and aggressively to retain his big score.
Ajinkya Rahane has had a horror run with the bat over the last year, which has seen his average dip to under 40. In fact, he averages a mere 19.58 in 11 Tests in 2021, his lowest average in a year since debuting in 2013.
Wasim Jaffer said:  “It’ll be a crucial series for Ajinkya Rahane. He hasn’t been consistent since his century in Melbourne (in December last year). However, I liked the fact that he played for Mumbai in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and even scored consecutive 70+ scores.
“So, he’ll be in a good frame of mind. These two Test matches against New Zealand will be a huge opportunity for him and he’ll be fired up. If he gets a good start, he’ll definitely be looking at that three-figure mark.”
Wasim Jaffer opined that the current Indian lineup appears a little suspect in turning conditions at home.
“Even though saying India has quality batting, I feel that in Indian conditions, Indian batters have fallen short. I don’t feel like we have had that similar quality of Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, and (VVS) Laxman against spin for a few years now. But again, even this batting will post a lot of challenges for this (NZ) bowling attack,” he said.
Wasim Jaffer, though, feels Ajinkya Rahane’s big knock is around the corner. He highlighted that the 33-year-old allows the bowlers to get on top of him when he is approaching a big score, and that is an issue he needs to sort out.
“Getting run in [Syed] Mushtaq Ali must have helped him and he’s one of those guys when he gets runs, he gets big runs. Looking forward to him having a really good series,” Wssim Jaffer said.
“Sometimes, I feel, he bats the best when he’s his aggressive self and that is the best he’s played. Even the hundred that he scored in Melbourne in the 2014 Test, that is how he bats the best. But sometimes, I feel, when he gets a big score, he goes into a defensive mode.
“That’s something which I have felt – he just lets the bowlers come on top of him, and that’s something which he needs to be aware of. So, if he’s his aggressive self, he plays his best cricket,” he added.
On the New Zealand series eve, Ajinkya Rahane asserted that some of his non-century innings have been important to the team’s cause.
“My job is to contribute to the team. And contribution doesn’t mean you score a hundred every game; 30-40-70 at a crucial moment is also an important contribution,” Rahane said.
“I always think about the team. I have never thought about where I am going. It is an honour for me to lead the team. What happens in the future is not of concern to me. I am focusing only on how I can give my best at a given particular moment,” he added.
Notably, Ajinkya Rahane has played 40 Tests and scored 7 half-centuries and 3 tons since 2019.
Wasim Jaffer picked his India XI for the first Test.
“I’ll go with two young openers in Mayank Agarwal and Shubman Gill. Then Cheteshwar Pujara at No 3. It’ll be a crucial series for Pujara as well,” domestic giant Jaffer said.
Wasim Jaffer chose Shreyas Iyer at No 5 instead of Suryakumar Yadav.
“Ajinkya Rahane in his No 4 slot. I’ll follow up with Shreyas Iyer ahead of Suryakumar Yadav as Iyer was in the squad before Suryakumar came in. My ‘keeper will be Wriddhiman Saha,” Jaffer added.
The former India opener chose three spinners and two pacers.
“At 7 Ravindra Jadeja. Ravichandran Ashwin will be my next spinner and Axar Patel, who did brilliantly against England, will be my last spinner. All the spinners are excellent batters as well, so the batting doesn’t seem to be an issue. They look like a solid, solid team,” he continued.
Wasim Jaffer selected Mohammed Siraj as his first-choice pacer and Umesh Yadav for bowling brilliantly in India.
“Mohammed Siraj will be my first seamer. And lastly, at No 11, I’ll pick Umesh Yadav. Yes, Ishant Sharma has more than 100 Test caps to his name, but Umesh has done brilliantly in Indian conditions. Moreover, Umesh’s ability to reverse swing the old ball will be crucial. So, this is my playing XI for the first Test match against New Zealand.”
India went in with 3 spinners and Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav as the 2 pacers, besides giving a debut to Shreyas Iyer.
Kyle Jamieson led a solid start for New Zealand when he struck with the wicket of opener Mayank Agarwal in the first hour of the morning session. However, Shubman Gill and Cheteshwar Pujara then rode through that nervy phase to build a fifty-run partnership, helping India recover from that early blow.
Mayank Agarwal was tentative, poking and missing a couple before finally edging one to be caught behind on 13 off Kyle Jamieson. But Shubman Gill scored a fifty before losing his wicket to Kyle Jamieson.

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