It took an edged boundary to the third man for Ajinkya Rahane to reach his seventh Test hundred. But it is the composed celebration that followed afterwards, that has made us admire the cricketer even more. In this age of brash chest thumping and air punching, Rahane’s mild manners come in as a breath of fresh air.
After reaching his third Test hundred in last four innings, this is what the Mumbai batsman did. Lifted both hands to the air, hugged his batting partner Umesh Yadav and stole a glance to the sky thanking the Almighty. No doubt these were not bereft of emotion but done with the restraint that has become synonymous with Rahane.
When the entire Indian team stood up to applaud, there was only genuine admiration for the man from Dombivali, Mumbai. This is what Rahane had to say to the media after scoring the hundred, “I was disappointed with the way I got out in the first Test. But, whether we play in India or abroad, what’s important for me is my process and preparations. I never think about scoring hundreds. I think the results will follow as long as I prepare well and my processes are right. I think about the small things that are helpful for me. At the same time scoring a hundred here is special, getting to the three-figure mark is really special for a batsman.”
A monk-like calmness hides a steely resolve that lies underneath, which is manifested in many of Rahane’s knocks in the middle. His unbeaten 108 off 237 balls in the second Test against the West Indies is one such example of sheer determination. The 28 year old’s martial arts background (Rahane is a black belt in Karate) has certainly helped him focus on the job better.
It’s a pure joy to watch Rahane in action in the field. The silken touch combined with gifted timing, makes him a class act. His safe hands in the slips and brilliant out fielding abilities have been a big bonus. But what sets him apart from others is the unique desire to fight against all odds and emerge victorious.
The long wait to don the national cap
His struggle began early. After many sacrifices, he made his first class debut for Mumbai while still in his teens. Despite scoring heavily year after year in the domestic circuit, the national selectors looked the other way. Many of his contemporaries like Rohit Sharma, Robin Uthappa with less impressive domestic batting records got their chance ahead of him.
Rahane was not the one to get frustrated and instead kept scoring heavily to force himself into reckoning. His One-day debut finally came in 2011 and he had to wait another couple of years for his maiden Test appearance. But his stock in Test cricket arena rose sharply and soon he became the most dependable Indian batsman overseas; with five of his seven Test hundreds coming away from home.
Mastering the T20 challenge
When he realised IPL and Twenty20 is here to stay, Rahane went back to the drawing board – in this case to his batting coach Praveen Amre. Concentrated on building his forearm strength, in an effort to clear the boundaries in the Powerplay overs, while opening the batting for Rajasthan Royals. Indeed it helped him make a mark in IPL as an opener.
Dropped after being integral part of the team
Many eyebrows were raised when captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni dropped Rahane last year from the one-day playing XI in Bangladesh. It looked like Rahane had done enough to cement his place in all formats. Not only was he dropped but also Dhoni’s open criticism in the press conference afterwards must not have helped. “We all felt that Ajinkya would do really well as a third opener,” said Dhoni. “But we have had to move him up and down to the order. Thing is, Rahane needs pace. We have seen that he plays a lot better when there is pace on a wicket. Whenever he has played at No. 4 or No. 5, if the wicket is slow, then he struggles to rotate the strike freely. Especially when he is just starting his innings, he has a bit of trouble.”
Rahane never sulked and tried to take it positively. In a surprising move, the national selectors showed their full faith in Rahane and picked him to captain the team touring Zimbabwe as top players were rested. It was a tough few weeks for Rahane, from being dropped to being named captain of Team India. But the resolute man that he is, Rahane was praised for his captaincy in Zimbabwe as India won the ODI series 3-0. Since then Rahane is slowly clawing his way back into India’s limited overs side.
High Praise from his mentor
Coming from Mumbai it’s no surprise Rahane looked up to Sachin Tendulkar for inspiration and got his place in the sun only after Tendulkar hung up his bat. And this is what Sachin wrote about Rahane in his book Playing it My Way, “I had known Rahane for years and had seen how much he loves the game. He has served cricket with complete dedication and commitment over the last few years. I said to him that he might feel hard done by what had happened in his career so far, but should continue to be the way he is, for I was sure Ajinkya would get another chance.” Looking at how Rahane’s career has shaped up and the way he has conducted himself both on and off the field, Sachin must be really proud of this fellow Mumbaikar.
By Rajesh Sahu (firstname.lastname@example.org)