Advertisement

Virat is expressive and gets motivated by being aggressive but I am the opposite: Ajinkya Rahane

Virat Kohli-Ajinkya Rahane India
Indian Test cricket team captain Virat Kohli (L) is helped by teammate Ajinkya Rahane. (Photo by MANJUNATH KIRAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Over the past few years, Ajinkya Rahane has developed significantly as a cricketer to become one of the important pillars of Indian batting line-up.

A packed calendar awaits the Indian team as they get ready to play 13 Tests this home season against New Zealand, England, Australia and Bangladesh. A traditionalist with his playing approach, Rahane’s performance will be crucial for his team’s success.

Advertisement

The versatile batsman also was conferred with the coveted Arjuna Award for his stupendous performances at the international level.

But before achieving all this success and respect as a cricketer, there was the struggle period for him just like any other cricketer who comes from Mumbai. It’s a well-known story that as a budding cricketer from the Mumbai suburbs of Dombivali, he had to travel for long hours on Mumbai locals to play cricket.

“This routine is, by all means, an exhausting one and not many would consider doing it for long. But, Rahane says that it was the passion of the game that kept him going all those years.”

“My day began at 5.30 am. I got on to the train at around 6 am, traveling from Dombivali to CST (Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus) and then to Azad Maidan. I spent around two to three hours, and sometimes even more, just traveling. I walked from CST to Azad Maidan carrying my kit bag and returned the same way. I was very passionate but I never thought about what I wanted to do, never planned anything. Obviously, I had goals, I wanted to represent the country…”

“Being passionate is important, it takes you places. People (on the train) helped me a lot. They made place for me to sit, keep my bag. Sometimes while traveling early in the morning, I would doze off before my stop. People would wake me up and tell me that we had arrived at the CST station. A lot of people have supported me.”

“I still remember that journey, it will always be with me. Often we forget the people and situations that brought us to where we are now, the present day… We need to respect it.”

Initially, it was his father Madhukar who would take the eight-year-old Rahane to Azad Maidan every day. But, with a tight schedule to deal with, his father one day decided to teach him how to become self-reliant asking him to travel on his own. From there on began the road to becoming a mentally tough lad.

“Traveling for long hours on local trains in Mumbai made me mentally tough. These days there are iPods etc, back then there was the Walkman. On trains, however, there is a lot of singing. People heading to office would sing songs in groups and it felt really good to listen to them and be in that atmosphere. I didn’t have a Walkman then, and I was also quite young. I remember I was eight when I started traveling by train. For the first two-three days, my father came with me, but he had his office to go to and so he couldn’t come every day.”

“One day, he dropped me to Dombivali station and told me that I had to travel on my own. He was in the compartment behind me and followed me to CST to see if I could manage. He came all the way to CST and then went back to Dadar, where his office was, the B.E.S.T. office.”

From then on, he was assured that I could travel alone. These days parents are hesitant to leave their children alone. But I think it is important to take that risk. Also, we didn’t have any other option we couldn’t take a cab or go by car.

Rahane likes to face challenges head on. His calm nature fools many to believe that might be a soft character. But, all these years he has been proving his opposition wrong and making them pay for their misunderstanding. But, this brave quality is not something which has developed in recent years.

Rahane has always been the calm yet tough guy. One example of this can be the story about him batting bravely before a 25-year-old fast bowler as a ten-year-old despite getting hit the ball. Rahane says attitude matters and that is what will take you ahead in life.

“I was obviously quite short then and the ball had hit my helmet. It hurt a lot. Everyone gathered around me because I was a kid. The opponents told me that this is not a sport for me and asked me to go back to the dressing room. I didn’t say anything then, but I thought that I have traveled such a long distance and I have just this one opportunity, and if I come across as weak, then I might not be selected to play in a match. So I figured that this was the only opportunity I had and that it would do me good to just perform well.”

“I think certain attitude matters. I was determined that I wanted to do something noteworthy. I didn’t know what would happen on the next ball, but a fighting attitude was important. So I hit five boundaries in the next five balls. My opponents and that same bowler appreciated it.

Ironically, his relationship with bouncers has continued. Australia’s Peter Siddle’s ball hit him on the helmet in his debut match. And, then there was the famous incident with Dale Steyn during the tour of South Africa which he says changed him a lot as a cricketer.

“I remember the Siddle incident, it was in my first game. And then there was Steyn… I remember I had become quite determined and motivated by then. After I got hit by the bouncer, we had come in for lunch. I didn’t eat anything, I was just sitting and thinking about the kind of impression I needed to give… how I was going to dominate.”

“In a match, you need to make a statement before your opponents. I was thinking of how I can hit back. I was batting with Virat Kohli at the time and he told me to just attack. Which is what I did after lunch and my confidence kept increasing after that. As a batsman, you need to find a rhythm, and I found mine then.”

Sledging is rampant in the game. It is one of the most effective methods to unsettle the batsmen who look immovable. Being good natured doesn’t help. Rahane has also been in the center of such things during his career but he always handled these incidents maturely.

“Basically, they (the opposition) want a reaction… They check if I have a reaction to what they say. Their intention is to disturb my mind, my focus. I don’t react to them. I only look at them, stare or smile at them sometimes. Everyone has a different way of dealing with it.”

Virat (Kohli), for instance, gets motivated by being aggressive, he might talk back to the bowlers. It helps him. I am the opposite. It helps me to keep calm or just stare at them to motivate myself. But if someone says something to me, then definitely I feel more motivated; it becomes a challenge.”

Rahane made his debut under MS Dhoni and will probably begin to peak to his highest level under his new Test skipper Virat Kohli. Both are different sort of individuals and their style of leadership is completely different.

When asked to compare both of them according to their captaincy skills, he said, “Their ways are different but their intention is the same — to win games for Team India. They are both different people. Dhoni bhai is quiet and calm under pressure, Kohli is more expressive. Dhoni is calm even off the field. As a captain, you have to lead from the front, and both Dhoni and Kohli do that.”

Rahane considers Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid as his role models and his batting style has made many believe that his technique is quite similar to that of Tendulkar and Dravid.

Speaking about it, Rahane says, “It feels great to be compared to Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. I have learned a lot from them, but they are legends who have done so much, and every individual has a different style. I am just starting my career and have a long way to go. I am lucky to have shared dressing rooms (with them). I am still in touch with them and seek their advice.

Advertisement