Today I read an article on Cricinfo arguing that Rahane is a problem for RR. It says, in a nutshell, that the top 6 batsmen of RR (apart from Rahane) face on an average 117 balls together in an T20 innings. Thus, Rahane effectively requires to face only 3 balls on an average. And here, his lowish strike-rate plays against him. The article further suggests that it would be best for RR to not to open with Rahane, and front load the batting with power hitters.
I disagree with the thinking.
First, the balls per innings stats can’t be treated in isolation. You can’t extrapolate balls played and runs scored at the end of the innings to the beginning. If it were the case, teams should simply pick 11 players who, on an average, face 11 balls each with the maximum possible strike rate. Unfortunately, cricket doesn’t work that way.
You increase chances of Stokes playing more balls by ensuring he comes in after a platform has been set not by sending him out to open against new ball. If Buttler opens, he might get to face more balls but his strike rate might also come down. Moreover, when he fails (which he would more than a Rahane), the team loses a one of its kind option later in the innings. This is the crucial concept to grasp here. Each player is different. The stage of innings when they arrive is different. Their role in team is different. A simple comparison of BPI (Balls per Innings) and Strike Rate simply doesn’t cut it.
Lastly, the balls faced is an average. There will be days when a batsman just keeps on hitting it and all is well. But there are also days when you lose 3 quick wickets and the team needs their batsman who average 25 balls per innings to play 40 balls. Now, a player like Rahane can extend his ball played by altering his game (not going for big shots and risky runs) but can a player like Maxwell do it ? Probably not.
A team of 11 Maxwells will probably pulp the team of 11 Rahanes but cricket is a game of limited resources. Power hitters who keep on hitting irrespective of match situation do not exist. Even if they do, there are not enough of them to fill your eleven. Till that time there will always be a place for Rahane.