It is always refreshing to see a young talent emerge on the scene. Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma fit into that category of young talents destined for bigger things on the international stage. Now, we can add Ajinkya Rahane to that list.
[Scorecard: Rajasthan Royals Vs Royal Challengers Bangalore]
After watching Rahane's unbeaten 103 off 60 balls in IPL 5, many purists would have marked him as a certain Test batsman for the country.
During that knock against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Sunday night at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, Rahane showed us Twenty20 cricket is not all about ugly hoicks, power-hitting and trying at innovative strokes.
"He (Rahane) is a special talent. He has a calmness about him which shows he is always in control. He plays the ball very late. He times it beautifully. Definitely he has got a bright future. He plays proper cricket shots. He is not a slogger. He always plays nice and straight. I think he batted beautifully," Owais Shah, who batted with Rahane, said.
Rahane's innings was replete with proper cricket shots. There was never a shot in anger. His cover drives, cuts and aerial shots, were all part of the text book.
One stand out stroke on that night, is how he put Muttaiah Muralitharan for a six over extra cover. An inside-out shot that would have made batting artists like Mahela Jayawardene and VVS Laxman proud. Even Muralitharan would have quietly admired that Rahane act.
Rahane also set a new record in Twenty20. His six fours in one over bowled by Sreenath Aravind, is a first in this format.
The 23-year-old from Mumbai is a short man, at 5 feet and 3 inches. But his shot-making is never small, he brings out the big strokes with a touch of great timing.
Rajasthan Royals' captain Rahul Dravid, who first opened the batting with Rahane but departed early, would have appreciated each and every stroke of Rahane from the sidelines. The right-hander has the potential of playing the five-day game.
Rahane admitted that he is learning a lot of things from his role model Dravid. “I am playing alongside my role model, Dravid, so I get to learn a lot of things from him," he said after collecting is second Man-of-the-match award in IPL 5.
Rahane has been consistent with the bat in domestic cricket while playing for Mumbai. He earned a call to Indian team during last year's One Day leg of England tour.
In the limited number of chances he got, he showed that he belongs to international cricket. But after 11 ODIs and 2 Twenty20 Internationals, Rahane is yet to feature in India jersey again. His last match for India was in December, 2011. He was ignored for Australia tour.
With a 98 and 103 not out so far, Rahane is growing confidence each day. By the time the tournament finishes, the way he is going, he should be among the top five batsmen. That would certainly earn him a ticket to World Twenty20 tournament in Sri Lanka in September.
IPL 5 has unveiled another bright young prospect for India. Watch out for Rahane. He could be the next star of Indian cricket.