Laxman has had the longer career. Rahane will, in all probably not play as many Tests as Laxman did. Laxman has the better average.
And yet, Rahane is the better batsman.
Rahane bats in an era in which the average attack is deeper than the average attack in the 1995-2014 period. This is not an obvious claim, because the general tendency when one evaluates bowling attacks is to consider the best bowler in the attack. But the best bowler does not bowl all the time. How hard or easy it is to score runs against an attack depends on how many easy overs an attack offers. And that depends on who the weakest bowlers are.
On average, the third and fourth bowlers since 2015 have been superior to the third and fourth bowlers in the preceding 20 years.
The table below organizes the balls faced by each player by the average of the bowler at the start of each delivery they faced into two groups - bowlers who took their wickets at better than 28 runs apiece, and bowlers whose wickets cost more than 28 runs apiece. Overall, Rahane (pid: 277916) has faced more difficult bowling than Laxman (pid: 30750).
Note that the records are sporadic for the period prior to 2001 (for example, Laxman’s 281 is not included in these figures, nor is most of his batting in the 1990s). Laxman’s career average was 45. His average for the deliveries for which ball by ball records are publicly available, is 50.4. Rahane’s career is fully accounted for.
Here is the same table for Test matches outside Asia. The quality and depth of bowling Rahane faced is significantly better than that which Laxman faced:
Finally, here is the same table for Tests in Asia:
Laxman has a better record against spin, especially finger spin. He averages in the 60s against both off-spin and slow left arm orthodox, while Rahane averages in the 40s. One could put this down to the fact that there were fewer raging turners in India in the 2000s than there have been during Rahane’s career, but Rahane’s record in high scoring home series, like the 2016-17 series against England do not help his case.
Rahane’s major problem has been against top class seam bowling. James Anderson (8/117 in 343 balls), Stuart Broad (6/99 in 303 balls), Trent Boult (4/124 in 245 balls), Kemar Roach (1/31 in 93 balls) and Tim Southee (4/35 in 136 balls) have troubled Rahane.
By contrast, Rahane excels against the quicker pace of Dale Steyn (0/65 in 140 balls), Kagiso Rabada (0/70 in 115 balls), Mitchell Johnson (1/62 in 67 balls), Ryan Harris (0/48 in 72 balls), Mitchell Starc (4/166 in 263 balls), Pat Cummins (4/151 in 254 balls), Anrich Nortje (0/41 in 88 balls) and Shannon Gabriel (2/110 in 191 balls).
Ajinkya Rahane is not playing well right now. So this is a good time to provide some perspective about his record.