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Even when the story is about Rahane or India, it's about Kohli
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Even when the story is about Rahane or India, it's about Kohli

If you look in the shadow of Virat Kohli's worship, you might see someone there. He's probably leaving the ball or playing a sound forward defence. Occasionally there's a follow-through turning defence into a drive. He was also, for the longest time, India's safest slip fielder.

Kohli and Rahane are practically the same age, both were child prodigies, and they both have crazy levels of batting talent. But for every extravagance or sign of greatness from Kohli, Rahane has only shown a straight bat.

How can you appreciate someone understated when Kohli takes up all the available oxygen. Like Sachin before him, Kohli has somehow created a separate media industry that isn't really about cricket but about him. His RCB teammates joke he's the busiest man on earth. He got recognised in Lapland.

You wonder how often Ajinkya Rahane gets noticed when he is out and about. For a player who's been around this long, you'd think it's a fairly modest amount when he's in his civilian clothes. He certainly wouldn't be near riot-inducing like Kohli is. Rahane's played 50 Tests, been in the IPL for years, and averages 47 in Test matches away from home. Kohli averages 48.

There is little doubt that Kohli is the better player, he's fuelled by almost toxic need to win that turns good athletes into Michael Jordan or Ricky Ponting. Rahane isn't like that, he's not just modest compared to Kohli, he's modest for an Indian cricketer. He gets on with it, he does a job, he tries his best, he's not the face of a major luggage brand. Kohli is a movie star, Rahane is a character actor.

Perhaps it feels that way because Rahane the batsman shows character. Before he was ten, he was playing on the maidans of Mumbai. There he was hit in the head by a fast bowler, he cried for 15 minutes, wiped the tears from his big wide eyes, then smashed a bunch of boundaries. It was always tough for Rahane. Over the last two years, he's averaged just 32. Of course, most of that time he's been batting in India, where he's always been bad.

Rahane once made a lot of runs in India; he made a hundred on first-class debut, averaged over 50 in his debut first-class season, and over 60 the next two years. His top score started at 143, went to 172 his first full year, 201 the following season and 265* the year after. But that 265* was in 2011, and it wasn't like Rahane was the only young man making runs. That year Kohli made back-to-back Test fifties after making his debut. But it was also Ravi Jadeja's first of two first-class triple centuries.

Getting noticed in India is hard. Corey Anderson's made five professional hundreds over ten years into his career, Rahane made that many in his second season. He still had to wait five years for a Test. Then Rahane became a professional 12th man for seven straight series. That's an extraordinary apprenticeship.

Since then he's averaged over 50 in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. He's played some quality innings in England. And although he only averages 30 there, he's passed 50 five times, without ever going past his top score of 103 at Lord's.

That's his career, lower average than he deserves, lack of fan attention in part because he barely hits the ball off the square at home, and he doesn't go big. Rahane innings are gritty, understated and short. He's passed 150 once in almost 50 Tests. And his two biggest scores were with Kohli at the other end.

At Southampton, India were chasing 245 to win. To stay in the series and be a chance to win it. It would never be an easy chase, even Kohli made it look tough. His half-century took almost three hours, and when he was dismissed, there was a vacuum. For Rahane, it was the perfect time to come forward. He was leaving the ball like a god, making England bowl to his patience straight bat.

But then Rahane received a ball that changed directions violently via the footholes. He reviewed, but it was still out. While he was in India were a chance of winning, but once he was out, India's chance seemed to disappear when Kohli went.

Even when the story is about Rahane or India, it's about Kohli.