That's one adjective written all over Ajinkya Rahane's batting against Delhi Capitals in Jaipur on Monday (April 22). Freedom from responsibilities as captain, freedom from poor form, and maybe freedom from not having to worry about a World Cup spot. Rahane was free, and had nothing to lose. It showed in his batting.
The freedom enabled Rahane to smash - a word not often used with Rahane's style of play - his second IPL century as he finished on 105 off 63 balls.
Rahane came into the game with only 213 runs from nine games at a strike-rate of 130.67. He lost his captaincy hours before Rajasthan Royals' previous game, and even had questions over his place in the XI.
Rahul Tripathi had scored a half-century in his last match before he was dropped, and Rahane couldn't afford more failures.
Rahane got the perfect opportunity to change it all on Monday. The pitches at the Sawai Mansingh stadium have been slow and two-paced through the season; apart from Kings XI Punjab's 184 in the first game, the first-innings scores in Jaipur this season have been 158, 139, 151 and 161.
It just didn't allow Rahane to play his strokes, especially after the Power Plays. A deeper look into Rahane's performances this season show he has done his job on pitches with even bounce and pace. He scored 70 off 49 in Hyderabad, and made 37 off 21 in Mumbai. On Monday, he got another such track at his home ground.
But there was nothing fluent about the way he started. A nervy mix up saw him lose his partner Sanju Samson to a run out in the second over. He managed only 16 off 18 when the turning point of Rahane's, and Royals', innings came: Ishant Sharma dropped a sitter at short-fine leg to allow the batsman a second chance.
Great intent, intelligent cricket!
The stylish player who carried his bat for @rajasthanroyals, scoring his 2nd #VIVOIPL Hundred poses for the #IPLSelfie#RRvDC pic.twitter.com/6obxAwMQ0Q
— IndianPremierLeague (@IPL) April 22, 2019
The reprieve perhaps made Rahane believe it was going to be his night. The very next ball, he stepped down to hit Axar Patel for a straight six. He followed it up with a boundary over short fine-leg.
Delhi turned to their best bowler in Kagiso Rabada, but Rahane didn't spare him either. He swatted the South African for a straight six, and two balls later, flicked him to the boundary.
Rahane had raced to 40 off 25 in the Power Play, but the bigger challenge began then especially given the ground is one of the biggest in the competition. Rahane, though, didn't slow down as he often does.
Rahane kept the boundaries ticking, pulling Chris Morris to get to his fifty and stepping out to his Axar inside out over extra cover. He kept the runs flowing between boundaries too, running hard couples with Steve Smith, who scored a fluent half-century from the other end.
The shot that showed Rahane's state of mind best was a Buttler-esque scoop off Morris that sailed over fine-leg. It was an incredible pick up considering he took it from outside off. Morris immediately sent fine-leg back and mid-off in, but Rahane sent the next ball over mid-off for another boundary. Later in the innings, Rahane even tried to paddle Rabada over third man, although he didn't connect cleanly.
Rahane reached his century off 58 balls, his second 50 runs taking only 26 balls.
However, even that wasn't enough for Royals as the others around him couldn't unleash their power game towards the end. Ben Stokes managed only a run-a-ball 8, while Ashton Turner got his fifth consecutive T20 duck, as Rajasthan managed only 41 runs in the last five overs. Rahane himself scored only one four in 12 balls in that period.
On a night when he ticked most boxes, the one minor one he, and his side, didn't cost Rahane & co big.
First Published: April 23, 2019, 6:50 AM IST