Among the thousands of wishes that former India cricket team vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane received on his 34th birthday on Monday, one post from the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) stood out, almost literally. KKR warmly greeted Ajinkya Rahane, as they wrote “it’s time for us to sing the birthday song for Ajju dada” under the caption of their post on Twitter. However, what got everyone talking was KKR’s posture of Rahane as it showed him in a new avatar of a “Karate champion”.

Interestingly, Ajinkya Rahane holds a black belt in martial arts.

In 2020, when India was in the middle of a national lockdown to contain the spread of the Coronavirus in the country, Rahane had shared his love for Karate in a video shared by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).

“A lot of people have asked me about my routine, in the morning I do my workout, it usually lasts up to 30-45 minutes, then I have started doing karate practice, I used to do it in my childhood, I am a black belt in karate, then I tend to spend time with my daughter Arya,” Rahane said in the video.

Several former cricketers and fans joined KKR in wishing Ajinkya Rahane who’s no longer a part of India’s Test team after having dropped from the side earlier this year.

The Mumbai-born cricketer used to be a key member of Team India’s middle-order and is best known for scoring hundreds in tough overseas conditions. Cases in point are his centuries at Lord’s in England, and the MCG in Australia.

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But Ajinkya Rahane’s prolonged slump in form which extended well beyond two years finally cost him his spot in the national team after his disastrous outing in South Africa. In the six innings of the three-Test matches against the Proteas, Rahane could only compile 136 runs at an underwhelming average of 22.66.

Former Australia bowler Brad Hogg has even justified Ajinkya Rahane’s exclusion from the Indian Cricket Team and called it a good move on the part of the selectors.

“I think it’s great that the selectors have dropped Rahane and Ishant Sharma from the Test team. They have been aging and haven’t been performing of late. You need to get the youth in and rotate them so that they get experience alongside those who are already experienced,” Hogg said on his YouTube channel.

Meanwhile, the out-of-favour Ajinkya Rahane missed a large part of the Indian Premier League (IPL), after having sustained a hamstring injury during a match for KKR.

Recently Ajinkya Rahane revealed the extent of his injury and said that he would need at least six to eight weeks to fully recover from the issue.

“That (injury) was really unfortunate. But my rehab is going really well. I am recovering really well. I was in Bangalore (at the NCA) for nearly 10 days and I am going there again for my rehab and recovery. It’s been on track,” Rahane told Indian news agency PTI.

“So right now my only focus is on getting better. Get fit as soon as possible and be on the field. I am not sure (when) I will be able to get (fully) fit, it is expected to be around 6-8 weeks but at this moment it is about taking one day at a time, one week at a time,” right-handed batter added.

Rahane made 133 runs in seven games for KKR in the 2022 IPL before being sidelined with an injury. But he termed his association with the West Bengal-based franchise as a “good one”.

“My experience with KKR was really good. I really enjoyed playing for KKR and the atmosphere there was really good. It is kind of a family atmosphere. We enjoyed each other’s success on and off the field but unfortunately, we couldn’t qualify for the play-offs,” he claimed.

“They (KKR team management) gave me a lot of freedom to play my game and I thought it was something special. Playing under (then KKR head coach) Brendon McCullum, I learnt a lot,” Ajinkya Rahane insisted.

Rahane also spoke about his match-winning innings of 112 in the second Test of the 2020-21 Test series in Australia, dubbing it a “special” knock.

India were bowled out for 36, their lowest score in Test cricket, in the previous game at Adelaide and were without their regular captain, Virat Kohli in the second game at Melbourne.

But Rahane who was leading the team in Kohli’s absence produced a chanceless hundred to turn the tide in India’s favour as the visitors went on to level the series at the MCG. The South Asians then went on to lift the Border-Gavaskar trophy in Brisbane after Rishabh Pant’s 89* gave them their second successive series win in Australia.

“Considering what happened in Adelaide, 36 all out, losing the Test match and then going to Melbourne with a different mindset and getting a hundred there and winning the Test was more special,” the Mumbaikar said.

“My hundred was special because we won the Test match there and from there we got the momentum and eventually went on to win the series,” Ajinkya Rahane signed off.