After his dazzling run in the Indian Premier League this season, Indian fans see Ajinkya Rahane mainly as a Twenty20 batsman. However, the Mumbai player remains untouched by the adulation. He belongs to the old school where is the focus is on Test cricket.
With the national selectors nursing high hopes on his making a transition, it could be his big season, starting with the Sri Lanka tour. HT spoke to him about the challenges and how he goes about his game. Excerpts:
You made a bright start in England and had a good IPL. How has life changed?
Whatever I have got is because of cricket, so my focus is always on cricket. I believe the game will respect you as much as you respect it. My father has taught me the value of staying humble.
At this level it's more of a mental game?
When I am batting, I focus on keeping a calm head so that I can think clearly. When faced with a difficult situation, if you are able to keep your cool, then you will always handle it better and overcome it.
You come across as one who thinks a lot about his game.
It is very important for a player to know his game, and understanding my game has helped me a lot. When you play international cricket, the opposition analyses your game. After a couple of series, your opponents understand your strengths and weaknesses.
How do you ensure you don't end up over-analysing?
Whenever I am on the field I try and make sure I am totally focused. After I go home, I spend 10-15 minutes alone, to reflect on what I did that day and what I can improve. After that I don’t think about it.
What advice did Rahul Dravid and Shane Watson give you?
Dravid told me how to approach the game. He said 'the more you enjoy the game, the better you will perform, and the simpler you keep it, the better you will be able to focus'. I had a lot of discussions with Watson too. He told me not to change anything.
It could be a big season. Are you ready?
I am only focusing on the Sri Lanka tour. I always believe in focusing on the present. My motivation always is to work and prepare for the next game.
What did you learn from playing against England?
It gave me the confidence that I belonged at the international level. Then I understood it was important to make the starts count and convert them into big scores. In England, I got out in the 40s in two-three innings, so after the series I decided that every time I get a start, I will convert it into a big innings. I managed that in the home series in Mohali.
How have you worked to tackle the short delivery?
From the start I have been playing horizontal bat shots. When I started playing in Dombivli (a Mumbai suburb) we used to play on mat and I developed the habit of playing on the rise. I also bat against the wet rubber ball.
You did not get any game on the Australia tour and were then dropped from the ODIs.
Selection is not in my hands. From there, I played a lot of club and domestic matches and I was only thinking that whatever opportunities I get I will give my best.