If adaptability is the key to consistency, then Ajinkya Rahane seems to have found it. For Rahane, to have scored more centuries abroad than at home is no mean feat. What it indicates is his understanding of different situations and finding a pragmatic solution to the problem.
He faced a similar situation in the Indore Test. The task was to find a way to be aggressive on a sluggish wicket that offered unpredictable bounce.
Enjoy and play
“Even when you struggle, it’s important to enjoy it. It shouldn’t be that you enjoy batting only when you are scoring runs freely; one should enjoy the manner in which you tackle the tough phase,” he said after a scintillating day of Test cricket that saw Rahane amass 188 runs and stitch a record partnership of 365 with Virat Kohli (211).
On Saturday, the 28-year-old Mumbai lad had entered the field with India at 100 for three. The task was to take the side to a respectable position, from where they could have some advantage. It wasn’t an alien situation for Rahane to be in. A majority of his seven previous tons have come in situations when India have found themselves in a precarious situation. He clamped down and frustrated the Kiwis with Kohli on Saturday.
On Day Two, it was time to accelerate, but the wicket had not changed much, so the focus was on punishing the loose deliveries. With the New Zealand attack, which includes incisive pacers and equally effective spinners, the task was never going to be easy.
He took it the bad way. Early into the day, Kiwi pacer Matt Henry bowled a bouncer to which Rahane was late duck. The ball hit the back of his helmet. Henry followed up with another short one targetted at Rahane’s head. But the Indian found a way to play around their ploy.
“Today, I was happy that they were bowling short balls at me, because I knew that short balls will give me runs, because that’s my shot (pull shot),” said Rahane.
It was another case of struggle. And Rahane enjoyed it. He battled through it and came up tops. “What matters the most is that you save your wicket. Let the ball hit the helmet or let it appear weird on television; all that doesn’t matter as long you are facing the next ball. I actually enjoyed this innings a lot because it made me realise Test cricket even better,” Rahane said.
“The feeling of scoring a hundred after struggling is just incredible. You can’t notch up a hundred in 120 or 130 or 140 balls every time; at times you have to spend a lot more time on the wicket and face more than 200 balls for a century. I am delighted I could do that and I will rate this innings very highly in my career,” said Rahane, who had scored hundreds in both innings of a Test in Delhi against South Africa late last year.
Rahane has been India’s man for all seasons. His partnership with Kohli for the fourth wicket might just be the start of a new star pairing in the Indian team. With centuries in every major country except South Africa, where he has two scores in the 90s, Rahane is fast emerging as a match-winner in pressure situations. Sunday was just another example of this transition.