WTC Final: Ajinkya Rahane will have a freer mind but will have his work cut out, says Sanjay Manjre

London, Jun 5 (IANS): Former India cricketer Sanjay Manjrekar spoke about the mindset that veteran middle-order batter Ajinkya Rahane will bring to the table during the ICC World Test Championship (WTC) Final against Australia at The Oval on Wednesday, saying the right-hander will have a freer mind, but will have his task cut out.

Rahane last played a Test for India in January 2022 on a tour of South Africa and was subsequently dropped from the side post a lean run of form. He returned to the domestic cricket grind, starting with the Duleep Trophy in September 2022, making 250 runs in five innings, including an unbeaten 207 for West Zone.

"He (Rahane) was under tremendous pressure the last time when he was playing for India. It's a tough time when a batter goes into bat, thinking that this could be the last innings of his Test career. That is a difficult place to be in. I don't think he will be in that place now as he has seen life after Test cricket, almost like a retired cricketer," Manjrekar was quoted as saying by Star Sports.

In the 2023/23 Ranji Trophy, Rahane was Mumbai's leading run-scorer with 634 runs from seven matches, including a double-century against Hyderabad, and 191 against Assam, at an average of 57.63. With injuries to KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer ruling them out of the WTC final, it paved the way for Rahane's return to the Test team.

"Now, he has got the opportunity, I feel his mind will be a lot freer. People might think his IPL form has contributed to his selection and come back. But he had a good first-class season as well. So, we might see some benefit there. I have been there. I have been dropped from the Indian team. I have got loads of runs at the first-class level but when you come back to Test cricket, you realize that it's a completely different ball game," added Manjrekar.

Rahane was a vital cog in the wheel for Chennai Super Kings winning IPL 2023, making 326 runs at a strike-rate of 172.49, including a stunning 19-ball against Mumbai Indians. Rahane had scored a match-winning hundred for India at Lord's back in 2014, and though his Test average in England is currently at 26.03, the WTC final is an opportunity for him to make his second chance count.

"So, Ajinkya Rahane will have a freer mind, but he will have his work cut out as well. Test cricket is a different ball game and he is playing against a top-notch opposition. I have no idea how he is going to bat. There's some indication that he's back in form, but it is a completely different scenario," concluded Manjrekar.

This is the second straight time India will be playing in the WTC final after they lost the title clash to New Zealand in the inaugural edition of the championship at Southampton in 2021.



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Title: WTC Final: Ajinkya Rahane will have a freer mind but will have his work cut out, says Sanjay Manjre

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