‘Self-belief and patience paid off’ - Ajinkya Rahane on his return to Test cricket
Ajinkya Rahane is never tired of waiting. While the world around him grows impatient in anticipation of something to happen, the India Test vice-captain does what he does best. Wait. A fading limited-overs career has seen Rahane in a blue jersey becoming a rare feature. Even in IPL he had to make way for Steve Smith as Rajasthan Royals captain in the middle of the 2019 edition. He built his reputation as a solid middle-order batsman in Tests but even there he’s been dropped on occasions, like the first two Tests of the 2018 tour of South Africa.
Never one to let his emotions get the better of him, Rahane has carried on with little fuss. Yet, he knew that one barren run was posing questions of him while the team management has shown the willingness to give youngsters Hanuma Vihari and Rishabh Pant a break in the middle-order—that Rahane had not scored a century since August 2017 against Sri Lanka.
All Rahane did was soldier on patiently, getting close to the three-figure mark on occasions yet falling agonisingly close. That changed in the recent Windies tour where he finished with a hundred and two half-centuries. For others, the wait could have been excruciating but not for Rahane, who also had to wait long for a chance to start his Test career. “You get to learn from every match and every series. I had to wait for two years and 17 Tests for my Test debut, and for this century (in West Indies) I had to wait for 17 Tests. There is some connection,” said Rahane on Monday.
Rahane made his debut against Australia in 2013, though he had been part of the Test squad since 2011. “When I was playing at Hampshire (in English County), I kept thinking how I used to play before my Test debut? Then it was more about enjoying the game. During these 17 Tests, I was thinking more about getting a ton. So in West Indies, my thought process was that I’ll not think of getting a hundred even once, whatever has to be happen will happen. If a hundred has to come, it’ll come. The focus was on playing according to the situation and luckily the 100 came as well. From my family point of view (his wife is expecting this month), a new journey is about to begin, so I’m very excited about that too.”
Rahane insisted he never faced any self-doubt during the long period when he couldn’t score a century. “It was important for me to stay in the zone. When you score runs, it looks really easy from outside. You can actually see that as a batsman you’re in a very good position. It was important to have belief in my abilities. I wasn’t thinking too much about my technical stuff. It was all about how actually I managed the mental adjustment like handling difficult situations.”
The Windies tour where Rahane aggregated 271, Vihari was top-scorer (289). “When you bat in the middle-order, it’s important to trust your partner. With Vihari batting at No 6, communication is important. You have to assess the situation and type of bowling. Batting with Vihari in the West Indies, we could plan really well when to attack and defend,” he said.
Against a new-look South Africa, the odds are heavily in favour of India. But Rahane felt the presence of players from the ‘A’ side that has been touring India for a while and seniors will make the job tough. “It is important to start with a win because of the Test Championship points. You cannot take any team lightly,” he said.