Batting at No.5 has always been considered a thankless job of sorts. One is more or less married to the fact that his partners will always be the unpredictable tailenders. And there remains this invisible pressure to bat at a quicker rate and not think about personal gains, like a century. Ajinkya Rahane has slowly adapted to this reality with mixed dividends. He got a century at Lord’s and Melbourne but missed out on a most deserving one at Fatullah. Kingston, however, was more kind.
“Frankly speaking I was not thinking about my hundred. When (Amit) Mishra and (Mohammed) Shami got out I told Umesh (Yadav) to play normal cricket. Just give your 100% whether defending or playing a shot. When I was 84-85, I wanted to play normal cricket but the off-spinner (Roston Chase) brought his long off in and I wanted to clear the fielder. When I was on 95, I just told him to play normal cricket and once I get my hundred we’ll play some shots,” said Rahane after end of play on Day 3.
Players celebrating personal records in a team game isn’t looked down upon but at the same time they are also taught not to openly crave it. They are raised on the ethic of putting the team ahead of everything else. Milestones, though, are always cherished. And Rahane, despite his cool exterior, was no different. In one breath, he summarised the contradictions faced by a batsman --- he doesn’t think about getting a hundred, but if achieved, it would be special.
“I was disappointed with the way I got out in the first Test. But, whether we play in India or abroad, what’s important for me is my process and preparations. I never think about scoring hundreds. I think the results will follow as long as I prepare well and my processes are right. I think about the small things that are helpful for me. At the same time scoring a hundred here is special, getting to the three-figure mark is really special for a batsman,” said Rahane.
What sets apart Rahane from most other batsmen is that he means what he says. He probably never thinks about a century. Otherwise he wouldn’t have got himself bowled on 98 against Bangladesh while trying to accelerate. He is so good that if becomes selfish about it, Rahane can convert every fifty into a century. With the right defence and attacking strokes, he can be an ideal No.3 but perhaps its better isn’t. He has already got a century coming at No.7 at Wellington of all places. And that’s a huge statement.
It makes it rather clear that Rahane is the all-weather man for India. This century only enhances his reputation further. He puts in long hours, never misses even an optional training and is always keen on getting his technique as correct as possible, even if that means more and more net sessions. He did the same before the match started. “I was just looking to get my rhythm back and play some basic shots. Instead of playing in the ground, because it was a bit soft, I preferred to go to the nets to get my footwork and rhythm right,” he said.
Monday wasn’t the most gracious innings Rahane played. There were shots of frustration, sometimes he rode his luck while another time he was also given a life. But the important thing is that Rahane didn’t allow anything to deter him from scoring as much as he could. If a century comes his way, he will take it. But he won’t hanker for it.