IT was a routine evening call for Pravin Amre from Ajinkya Rahane post Day One of Indore Test. Rahane was unbeaten on 79 runs after surviving the challenge of being hit on the ribs, tested with bouncers, struck on the helmet and subjected to frequent probing by the New Zealand pacers. “Double pace aahe wicket la’ (The pitch has double pace), Rahane told Amre. ‘Tu faqt ube rah, runs yetil (You just stay at the wicket, runs will come),” Amre told Rahane in reply.
“His preparation has helped him a lot,” Amre told The Indian Express. “Look, he got out by trying to pull in Kolkata, so he must have decided not to play the pull shot. He was ready to take those blows on his chest. Teams have started to plan for him. Look how he reacted to it. It was the best batting I have seen from him in recent times,” Amre says.
Amre is pleased with the way the Mumbai boy has progressed in the last few years. Rahane has scored hundreds in all countries he has played, barring South Africa. He says the time has come when the Mumbai boy has started to find solutions on his own. But these runs are a culmination of behind-the-scene hard work, hours spent at the gymnasium and uncompromising work ethics, especially regarding training. He seldom compromised and gave unnecessary off-days to his body. Even two days before his marriage, he walked into Mumbai’s BKC ground for long sessions.
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A day after he returned from the US, where India played two T20s against the West Indies, many of his teammates were busy in commercial commitments, but Rahane called Amre for an indoor session. Amre recalls asking him about jet-leg. “I slept at 6 am and woke up at 12 am but as the New Zealand series is round the corner, I went ahead with my practice session. I never like to compromise with my session–bus aadat ban gayi hai,” he had said then.
He also ensures that media or other commercial engagements don’t collide with practice sessions. With heavy rains in Mumbai, he couldn’t get enough practice sessions. But like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahane too plans his preparations, looking at which team and where the series will be held. At the Brabourne Stadium, a turner was prepared and Rahane ensured that in limited time, he adjusted to sharp turn and uneven bounce, which he will encounter in the long home season.
Rahane was unlucky to miss out on his first double ton but his approach was the standout point of his batting. Amre points out how aggressive he was despite facing those tough situations. He played his drives, which is an essential part of his run-making, and he even struck three sixes on the first day.
In the presence of a superstar like Virat Kohli, who likes to express himself, it’s natural that a soft-spoken Rahane might go under the radar. Rahane has never shown his aggression outwardly but his mentor Amre says one has to go deep within his heart to see it. “What is aggression? The one which people see from the eyes. I have seen Rahane’s resilience in his eyes. A bowler get hurts more when a batsman doesn’t reply to any sledge but instead quietly outplays by scoring runs.
That is the moment one earns respect too and Rahane is heading towards it,” he adds.
Rahane rates this innings highly. He confides that sometimes batsman do struggle from shot ball or outside-the-off stump ball and start thinking about technique. He feels one should not think too much about technique. The key is how you handle your mind during those situations. “I was struggling but I feel there is no shame in struggling if you are playing Test cricket. Time and situation keep changing. When you are struggling you might be getting beaten, getting hit on the helmet or in the TV you might be looking akward,” he says.
The more you struggle, the more enjoyable the hundred becomes, he says. “ Once you struggle and then you go on to score hundred that is a different feeling. Today I realized that you can’t score every hundred in 130-140 balls. Sometimes you have to spend more time at the crease, face 200-230 balls,” Rahane explains.
Nothing has come easy for Rahane. He had to wait for a long time but like some predators who are adept in waiting, Rahane has pounced on the opportunities that have come in his way.