Former Australian captain Ian Chappell has called stand-in Indian captain Ajinkya Rahane’s century the “perfect knock” as he put the tourists in the drivers’ seat in the second Test.
Rahane weathered a brilliant bowling spell from Pat Cummins to finish the day unbeaten on 104, his second century at the MCG, with the tourists racing to 5-277 in their first innings, currently holding a lead of 82.
India’s performance on the first two days of the second Test continues a remarkable revival after being bowled out for a national record low of 36 in the first Test.
Despite the tourists being without inspirational skipper Virat Kohli, Chappell says the superstar’s absence has had a galvanising effect on the Indian dressing room.
“When you lose a star player, the replacement player can’t cover for the champion player,” he told Wide World of Sports.
“What you need is everybody to contribute a little bit more. I think that’s obviously led by Rahane, and it’s pretty obvious that Rahane has tremendous respect within that Indian team.
“Two things have happened: they’ve realised they’ve all got to put in a little bit extra to make up for Kohli, but they’ve also got the aspect of: Ajinkya, we really respect him, we like him as a person, and we’re going to put in a little bit extra for him as well.
“I always thought that India would be okay under Rahane, but when you throw everything in, 1-0 down, (Mohammed) Shami out with an injury, Kohli going home, I didn’t think that Rahane would make this sort of difference, but he has.
“It takes a man of immense strength of character to be able to lead them, (but) they’ve also got some very experienced guys there. Just watching them in the field, there was a point where they took a wicket and Ravi Ashwin was talking to the players.
“It looked to me like there was a determined effort of, ‘What happened in Adelaide was bad, but let’s put it behind us and get on with the job in Melbourne’. I take my hat off to Rahane and the whole Indian team for the way they’ve turned it around.”
While Chappell called Rahane’s century the “perfect knock”, he wasn’t ready to anoint the stand-in skipper as a better leader than the incumbent Kohli.
“I think Rahane is a very good captain, but he’s only had to fill in from time to time,” he said.
“You don’t really know how good a captain is until he’s got the job and he’s done it quite a bit, but I haven’t seen anything that makes me think that he would not be a good long-term captain.
“He’s got one of those temperaments where he seems placid, but he is also one of those guys who is able to forget about the ball that has just passed and purely concentrate on what is coming next.
“It had everything, that knock. It had the discipline that was required on a pitch that was helping the bowlers, but every time they bowled anything that looked loose, he put it away and that’s exactly what you’ve got to do on a difficult pitch against a very good attack. If they do happen to bowl a slightly loose delivery, you’ve got to put it away.
“For the circumstances, it was absolutely the perfect knock. The fact that the pitch favoured the bowlers, the standard of the bowling attack, it’s got to rate very highly.”
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