After Kolkata Knight Riders bought Ajinkya Rahane at the IPL 2022 mega auctions back in Bengaluru earlier in the year, co-owner Juhi Chawla’s daughter Jhanvi Mehta had said, “We lost Shubman Gill who never entered the auction. Ajinkya can fulfill that role well, he will allow Venky Iyer to play his game very freely.”
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Two months down the line, Miss Mehta might be biting her lips after the veteran India batter has failed miserably at the top of the order. Averaging 16 in the first five games, Ajinka Rahane’s conservative approach inside the powerplays has only compounded KKR’s problems.
Barring a 44 against defending champions Chennai Super Kings in the IPL 2022 opener, Rahane’s scores read 9, 12, 7 and 8 before being replaced by Australian Aaron Finch against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Friday, has raised questions about the utility of this veteran Indian batsman.
Bought at a base price of INR 1 crore, Rahane was KKR’s first buy on the second day of the IPL auction 2022 in February. The two-time IPL champions also acquired the services of hard-hitting opener Alex Hales to possibly pair up with Venkatesh Iyer, after the Englishman’s exploits in the Pakistan Super League 2022.
However, the sudden withdrawal of Alex Hales from IPL citing bubble fatigue left KKR with no other option but to go with Rahane along with Venkatesh Iyer at the top of the order.
The move completely backfired as Rahane’s non-flexibility early on in the innings forced Iyer to play the anchor’s role – something that doesn’t fit well with head coach Brendon McCullum’s aggressive style of play.
Having scored 4021 runs in 156 IPL matches so far, Ajinkya Rahane’s credentials aren’t to be questioned. But in this ruthless T20 format where only runs and wickets matter, the 33-year-old is looking to be a misfit. In the last two seasons, Rahane could manage only 11 IPL games scoring 121 runs.
Narine An Option
It is too early to judge Aaron Finch after his five-ball seven against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Friday, but KKR also have the option to open the batting with Sunil Narine.
In his role as a pinch-hitter, Narine started opening the innings for KKR in 2017 and has transformed into a phenomenal striker of the ball. Narine’s breakthrough season as an opener in the IPL came in the 2018 season when he scored 357 runs in 16 games, including a career-best of 75 against Punjab Kings.
Sunil Narine also grabbed headlines in the recently concluded Bangladesh Premier League and was one of the architects of Comilla Victorians’ title-winning campaign. Although he couldn’t do much with the ball, the West Indian balanced it with the bat when it mattered with two fifties including one in the final.