Ajinkya Rahane is now the vice-captain of the Indian Test team © Getty Images (File photo)
Ajinkya Rahane has scored six hundreds in Tests for India © Getty Images (File photo)

Ajinkya Rahane, one of the most calm and composed players in Indian cricket at the moment, will be an important part of the team that tours West Indies in the near future. A perfect combination of persistence and patience is what Rahane is all about. After coming back from a short vacation and spending time with his family, Rahane hit the nets at the indoor cricket academy at the Bandra Kurla Complex recently. Although, there is still time for Team India’s next assignement, he is practicing hard in the nets and preparing well for the season ahead. In an interview with bcci.tv, the right-hand batsman talks about his approaach towards the game in all the three formats, his partnership with Virat Kohli, vice-captaincy and India’s tour to the Caribbean. READ: Ajinkya Rahane signs up with Cornerstone

When asked about how his journey has shaped up and how he looks back at it, from being a kid in Dombivali to being an irreplaceable part of the Indian team, Rahane said – “I am definitely happy about the kind of journey I have had so far and it will continue. It is a continuous learning process and that’s why you play cricket. Off the field too, the learning continues. There have been challenges, but my attitude has been that I will face them positively. If you do that, then half the battle is over. So from the Dombivali train journey, the Under -12, Under -13 days to Ranji Trophy and through to the Indian team to now has been memorable. I have learnt a lot and enjoyed it as well,” as quoted by bcci.tv.

Rahane, has always been praised in the Indian media by the experts in the game for his patience and temperament, which are not qualities everyone has. When asked about where do those qualities come from, he said – “I always had patience, but it has grown with experience. It was instilled by my family. My father would tell me that hard work will always bear fruit even if it happens a little late. If you get irritated or frustrated, it will only be your loss. I learnt a lot about patience from my Karate training and the intense training that came with it.” READ: Ajinkya Rahane looking forward to challenging West Indies tour

Rahane is a member of the Indian team in all the formats (Tests, ODIs, T20Is) of the game. When asked about how he approaches the three formats he said – “As a batsman or as a sportsman, knowing and understanding your own game is very important. When T20 started we didn’t have an idea about the pace (of the game), the strike rate required for a batsman. But after gaining experience, I feel that there isn’t much of a difference in one-day and T20. I have to adjust mentally. My game is such that the longer I stay at the crease I will be able to contribute more effectively. If I try to play for 20 overs then the team will benefit. If you see, my strike rate in the first six overs, six to 12, and then from 14 to 18, it has increased. So I have realised that risk-free shots that yield runs are important. You have to take risk in T20 cricket. What others think shouldn’t bother you, but definitely try and learn from it when you get out.” READ: Ajinkya Rahane bats for P&G Shiksha programme

He added – “As a professional cricketer it is important to have that self belief. How you switch across different formats mentally is very important. Technically, I always focus on the basics which are almost the same across formats, but mentally reading the situation, visualizing it makes a lot of difference.”

He was then asked how does he mange to adjust to the situation so easily, to which he replied saying – “Definitely it is not, but how you train your mind is important. I talk to myself all the time and that helps me. Talking to myself about what to do in different situations, how to read them, visualize what conditions I will be playing in, the approach I will have has made a lot of difference to me. The answers that I arrive at when I have conversations with myself have definitely helped a lot.” READ: Ajinkya Rahane: Anil Kumble’s tips will take Indian cricket forward

When asked about how batsmen are approaching the T20 format nowadays and what is his view of it, he said – “Batting has definitely improved. As an opening batsman it is pertinent to build a foundation for the team. You don’t always get going from the first ball, many a times you have to spend a bit of time and take a measure of the situation and then you can take chances. A lot of teams and batsmen have realised that laying a foundation is very important and your middle and lower-middle order can finish the innings well. It might seem that 20 overs are few, but when you are playing, 20 overs is a lot of time. Batsmen are reading the game well and it is the responsibility of the top-order for the team to do well. ”

Rahane, has had a different role to play in all the three formats of the game. But he has often ended up with the task of anchoring an innings while he is at the crease. When asked about how he manages to do that he said – “In T20 it is important to know your game. I have realised that whenever I have tried to do something different I get out. So I decided to improve within my game and as the game progresses I will play shots which will get me a boundary. You have to take risk in T20, but at the same time shot selection is crucial. In every team there is one batsman who plays 15 -16 overs, or on a good day full 20 overs. I think that is my role in whichever team I play for. If I do that, then the other batsmen can bat around me. It is important that whoever is assigned that role fulfills it because it is a team sport and you shouldn’t be thinking about just yourself.” READ: Ajinkya Rahane: Lynchpin of Team India

He added – “Many a times the thought of hitting sixes or big shots crosses my mind too, but you have to realise what the team needs and play accordingly. It is crucial to take the ones and twos as well. It is important to rotate the strike and hit the odd boundary. So, while my role is to anchor, I also should be able to accelerate when it is required and I can do that.”

When speaking about the anchoring role in ODIs, he said – “In one-day the mindset is of how I can rotate the strike especially now that I bat at No 4. In ODIs the situations are different. Sometimes I come in to bat very early or sometimes after 30 overs. When I am in the dressing room I visualize the situation and watch the flow of the game, the run-rate and then I try to play accordingly. Whatever situation I go in to bat, I try to give myself a bit of time initially – in T20 five-six balls, in one-day I can give myself 10 to 15 balls. Once I get an idea of the wicket I can bat instinctively. In one-day also the effort is to build a partnership and hit the odd boundary.”

Rahane though, is a fine Test batsman and has often been acknowledged as a dependable player for India in the format. On anchoring in Tests he said – “In Tests batting at No.5 is a challenge because sometimes you go in to bat really early and sometimes after the ball is old and you have to face the second new ball. Making runs is very important in Tests as well; especially now that we play with five bowlers. After me there is the wicketkeeper and then the lower-order and bowlers. At that time the main challenge is to defend as well as take the team to a good position; at the same time you have to score runs as well.” READ: Ajinkya Rahane’s top 5 Test knocks

He added – “The best example of that is the last Test in Delhi when I made a century against South Africa. When Virat Kohli and I were batting in the second innings the flow of my batting wasn’t the same like it was in the first innings, and since Virat was batting in a good flow I decided that I will take singles and give him strike. And I think he was batting on 83 at the end of third day’s play and I was batting on 52. Next day after facing the first ball I felt that I can attack so I told him that you take your time and I will try to attack.”

He further said – “In Tests, reading the situation, giving the tail-enders confidence when they are batting with you, how you communicate with them is crucial. Communication is very important when you are anchoring and especially when you are batting with the bowlers showing faith in them is very important. And I learnt a lot of these things when I batted at different positions. I would consider myself lucky that I got an opportunity to bat at different positions and I got to learn a lot from that. I have watched VVS Laxman’s innings like the one in the win against Australia in Mohali and many others. I have watched his batting clips, also Michael Hussey and MS Dhoni, because they too bat with the lower-order in one-day and in Tests. Watching them, I have observed the kind of approach and what stage of the match they accelerate or how many balls do you let the lower-order batsmen face.” READ: Where Ravichandran Ashwin lost the race to Ajinkya Rahane in Test vice-captaincy?

Ajinkya Rahane and Virat Kohli have put on valuable partnerships for India in Tests © Getty Images (File photo)
Ajinkya Rahane and Virat Kohli have put on valuable partnerships for India in Tests © Getty Images (File photo)

Rahane and Kohli have been involved in many important batting partnerships for India in Tests, the most remembered of them being in South Africa. Speaking on those crucial stands and the duo’s way of approaching things he said – “Yes, that partnership with Virat in Durban – A Dale Steyn delivery had hit me on the helmet and I didn’t react, I didn’t want to, so Virat came and told me ‘attack kar isko’ (attack him) when your partner gives you a positive response (it boosts your confidence and) I too responded positively sating “yes, I am going to attack.” That attitude is inside both of us from the beginning. As we continued to play together we understood and got an idea of each other’s game and we have both been enjoying batting with each other. Running between the wickets and communication is very important, but how you do it also matters. ”

He also added – “You can communicate in various ways but positivity and having intent is very important when you are playing in the middle. He is aggressive and I am calm so that combination works for us. In a way I too am aggressive but I don’t show it; he is different. Each individual is different and that benefits both of us in different ways. When I need to be aggressive he boosts me and when he needs to cool down then I am able to probably help. During practice also we keep talking to each other, discussing what should be the approach and how to bat in different situations. To enjoy that and communicate is very important.” READ: Why Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane and other Indian cricketers shouldn’t participate in mini IPL

Rahane credits the trust that he has in Kohli as the reason behind their success in the game. He said – “It is important that you trust your partner. Virat reads the bowler well and I feel that whether it is Virat or someone else if you have trust in your partner then you can enjoy the partnership and it’s because of that trust that we began enjoying each other’s company. Not only on the field but off the field as well we continue to communicate and that trust is the factor that has helped our partnership.”

When asked about his vice-captaincy, Rahane said – “I am definitely excited about the role and looking forward to the tour to West Indies. This added responsibility will extract the best out of me because I like taking responsibilities. As a player, as a vice-captain you are constantly thinking about the game and want to be ready with alternatives and suggestions when the captain asks for your view. I won’t always be in the ear of the captain. When Virat asks me I should have an answer as to what can be done then. So it is definitely a new responsibility for me and a challenge I will definitely enjoy.”

Rahane, who is also an exceptional fielder is known for his slip catching. When asked about what kind of approach he adopts for fielding he said – “Fielding is a very important aspect. It is an aspect that you can control; it is in your hands. How you prepare is very important. When I was told that I would be fielding in the slips in Tests, I told our then fielding coach, R Sridhar that I want to take 100 catches everyday during practice. Even on the day of the match we will take 50 to 100 catches in the morning. I feel it is due to that practice that my focus increased and helped in my catching.”

He added – “Fitness has also helped. I focus a lot on running, agility, speed training and it has made a difference to my flexibility and agility. As you continue to move forward you have to work on the various aspects. It is better that you take responsibility and do what needs to be done rather than doing it after someone tells you. After all, you are representing your country and I always want to do better for my country and you don’t want to disappoint the fans who come to support you.”