In his first virtual press conference in a Delhi Capitals jersey, Ajinkya Rahane made a candid confession. He said that he had not picked up his cricket bat for five months. After returning from the New Zealand tour in February, he had barely begun training for the IPL season, before his plans went haywire due to the lockdown announced due to the pandemic. Visualisation exercises, meditation and spending quality time with daughter Arya helped him through those months in isolation.
In essence, Rahane has arrived in Dubai absolutely from the cold. Having come to the new franchise after a trade-off with Rajasthan Royals, he comes to the IPL season just three weeks away with a pretty daunting task ahead of him. Find a way to get back into rhythm. “It will be a challenge, but I think I will need just five or six sessions in the nets to get into my groove,” he opined.
When he was asked about the possibility of IPL runs pushing his case for a comeback to the Indian ODI team, Rahane quipped: “I am hopeful of making a comeback in white-ball cricket. If you see my record before getting dropped in ODIs, it was really good actually. People talk about strike rate and averages. Before getting dropped from 50-over cricket, it was really good. I have faith in myself rather than what people are saying.” The last time he featured in ODIs was against South Africa in 2018, when he scored 140 runs in six games. This had come after he scored 586 runs in 12 matches at an average of 48.83 in 2017. Not having a clearly-defined role may have led to his cluttered approach in 50-over cricket.
Nevertheless, Rahane maintained that he should have been India’s No.4 batsman at the 2019 World Cup. It didn’t matter that his Mumbai and Delhi Capitals mate Shreyas Iyer has already made that spot his own in ODIs. For once, the senior man was pushing his own case.
“I was actually thinking I will be there in the World Cup batting at No. 4, but it is gone now,” he said, before adding: “I don’t think too much about it [the World Cup], [but] yes, especially when I was playing county cricket when the World Cup was happening… as a player everyone wants to be a part of the World Cup team, especially when you know you have worked really hard, and your record in the past was really good.”
In T20Is and IPL, the 32-year-old has prospered as an opener. In fact, 110 of his 132 IPL innings have come as an opener. But with the Delhi Capitals being blessed with a bevy of big-hitting openers such as Prithvi Shaw, Shikhar Dhawan and Jason Roy, Rahane may have to step into the middle order, realistically at the No.4 spot. “I am always open to whatever the team asks me to do. Having said that, I always opened throughout my career. I always enjoy opening the batting. It is completely up to the team management what role they want me to play,” he offered.
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