Ajinkya Rahane is a class act. That much has become established fact now, especially after his performances of late. There’s an innate beauty about his ability to score quick runs with the most exquisite of cricket shots.

On a boring, placid day – the third in the Test match between Bangladesh and India – at the Fatullah Stadium in Narayanganj, Ajinkya Rahane put on another exhibition of gorgeous strokeplay. For those of us who have seen him over the past few years, it didn't come as much of a surprise. When he first burst on the scene, Rahane had acquired a reputation of being a stocky, obdurate batsman. But since then he has demonstrated that he didn’t need those ugly hoicks or swipes across the line. He could remain a purist’s favourite and yet could still score at a fair tick.

Rahane nears a century...

When the 102nd over of India’s innings started, Rahane was on 90 off 99 balls, with India at 445 for 4. He had just reached the nineties with a boundary in the previous over off Jubair Hossain. After two intensely frustrating days, India’s strategy had been to go hell for leather, come what may. Whatever little chances of a result there were depended on India's scoring fast, reasoned Kohli. So the line of attack seemed clear. Get as many on the board as possible before the heavens opened up.

Rahane was following those instructions to the letter. His batting was typically stylish, filled with some delightful cover drives and finely timed sweeps. A fourth international Test century looked there for the taking. In fact, if the weather held, you could even foresee Rahane getting many more runs.

Shakib Al Hasan had been entrusted with bowling the 102nd over. Since he was Bangladesh’s best bowler in the match by a long margin, Rahane could have realistically been expected to be watchful of him, especially since he had just taken three wickets. Rahane slog-swept the second ball of the over to the long-on boundary to reach 94, putting paid to any thoughts of watchfulness.

The next delivery, Shakib varied his line a little. If the last delivery was on off stump, this one was more middle and leg. And again Rahane swept. Just the perfect degree of timing. The ball sped away again to the deep square leg boundary. Rahane reached 98. The smattering of Indian supporters present perked up, expecting another milestone to celebrate.

...But throws it away for the team

You could have expected Rahane to take a single. Or a quick two. Perhaps, if it was a rank long hop, to cream another of those dreamy cover drives. Shakib, an experienced warhorse of many a campaign, bowled a similar delivery to the previous one, but just pulled his length back. Rahane tried to pull it away. It was not as short as he expected. The ball clattered onto his off-stump. Rahane was out for 98 and walked off without even a backward glance. There was not even a modicum of frustration. No regret at missing his hundred. He simply walked off.

The first reaction was exasperation. How could Rahane play a shot like that? Couldn’t he have just taken a single? Couldn’t he have gone to his century first and then played that shot? How could he rob us of the chance to celebrate his century?

But when you saw him walk away, you couldn’t help but feel a warm glow stealing over your heart. Rahane hadn’t cared. He didn’t care that he was two runs away from a Test match century. It just didn’t matter to him. The team had entrusted Rahane with a task. And that was the most important thing for him, not something as silly as a Test match century.

On a boring, placid day at the Fatullah Stadium in Narayanganj and in a Test match few will remember once it is over, Rahane displayed the sort of unselfishness which has become a rare quality in present-day cricket. As the match meandered again, there must have been a tinge of gratefulness in the Indian supporter. When Rahul Dravid retired, many must have privately wondered India would ever see a man as dedicated to the team as he was. With Rahane, it seems they’ve found a worthy replacement.