Ajinkya Rahane was 10 when he made the trip from Dombivali to Azad Maidan for his first age-group tournament match in Mumbai. Playing for Liberal Cricket Club, he got injured while fielding and couldn't open the innings.
"We had a collapse and he came in at No. 8, scored 30-odd runs and
won us the game. It was his first step in Mumbai cricket and he kept going higher," remembers Raju Pathak, coach at Rizvi Springfield School , who introduced Rahane to the Worli-based club.
Rahane has a penchant for making a strong first impression, and at the Old Trafford on Wednesday he made 61 off 39 balls on his debut in India colours. More than the runs, it was his positive intent that stood out. He took on Tim Bresnan and Stuart Broad, countering their short balls with hook and pull shots.
With the pacers dealt with, all eyes were on how he'd match up against spinner Graeme Swann. The batsman didn't disappoint. His footwork was sure and wristwork brilliant. He had the crowd on its feet when he danced down the track and hit Swann through the covers.
As Indian cricket searches for candidates to lead the transition after the imminent retirement of Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid, Rahane can be added to the list of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma.
Sunil Gavaskar and Dilip Vengsarkar's influence was unmistakable in Tendulkar's approach when he arrived at the scene. Now, Rohit and Rahane have given hope to Mumbai, renowned for producing batsmen with an all-round game. "Mumbai's legacy has been the way seniors have guided youngsters. So has been the case with Rahane. Whenever Tendulkar's got the opportunity to be with the team, he's taken out time to mentor Rahane," said former coach Praveen Amre.
"In Mumbai, we lay a lot of emphasis on back-foot play. It is the key to succeed at the top level. Rahane is very strong both on the front and back. The best thing about him is that he doesn't commit himself. He has all the strokes in his armoury," he said.