Ajinkya Rahane promised me a special knock for my 50th birthday: Coach Praveen Amre

Ajinkya Rahane provided brilliant support to skipper Virat Kohli as India dominated on Day 1 of their third Test encounter against England at Trent Bridge.

cricket Updated: Aug 19, 2018 12:48 IST
Baidurjo Bhose
Baidurjo Bhose
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
India vs England,Ajinkya Rahane,Praveen Amre
Ajinkya Rahane celebrates after reaching half century during the third Test match between India and England.(REUTERS)

The relation between a coach and his ward can often be as close as that of a father and son. So, it came as no surprise to coach Praveen Amre when Ajinkya Rahane was one of the first to call him from England on August 14 and wish him a happy 50th birthday.

But Amre wanted a special gift for his 50th. He wanted Rahane to play an innings that would remind everyone why India’s Test vice-captain is considered one of the country’s best when it comes to playing on overseas conditions.

Rahane kept the promise made to his coach and played an innings that had ‘Vintage Rahane’ written all over it on the opening day of the third Test at Trent Bridge on Saturday. Amre goes on to reveal that the joy when his ward raised the bat towards the dressing room knew no bounds.

“I must tell you a small story in the lead-up to the third Test. I just celebrated my 50th birthday on Tuesday and when he asked me, I said I want to see him raise his bat to the dressing room and that would be my best birthday gift.

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I cannot tell you how happy I was at the moment when he reached his fifty and raised his bat towards the dressing room. Yes, he could have converted the 81 into a three-figure score, but it was a good catch that saw him getting out. For me, it was the flawlessness of the innings that stands out,” he told Hindustan Times.

The writing was on the wall for Rahane after scores of 2, 15, 13 and 18 in the first two Tests and Amre made no bones about the fact that this match was a test of the batsman’s mental strength more than anything else. But Amre is quick to add that his suggestion to the batsman was to just keep things simple and not think too much.

“After 47 Test matches, he doesn’t need to be told how to bat. At this level, things are all about adapting and fighting a mental battle when the chips are down. If you can be mentally tough, you can come out of the situation a winner. While the world is cruel and pundits are expected to be critical when you don’t perform at the expected level, it is the job of the coach to show the player how he can improve.

“I just kept it simple and told him that he looked good even in the first two games before getting out cheaply. So, it was important for him to bat freely and play every ball on its merit. Yes, you do need a bit of luck as well when playing in conditions that suit bowlers, but, your job is to stay focused and not let any negative thoughts overcome your determination. Rahane showed great mental toughness,” he pointed.

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Asked about the issue that Rahane spoke about with regards to Ben Stokes, Amre revealed: “During our discussion, he said that the point of release was an issue he was facing with Stokes. Looking at the shine and playing accordingly is what you aim for as a batsman. But in case of Stokes, he wasn’t being able to read it at the point of release. It does happen at times that you face problems against a certain bowlers and it isn’t something worrisome. He looked perfectly fine on Saturday against Stokes.”

While Rahane has been one of India’s best in the longest format of the game, a prolonged spell of poor form hasn’t helped. Add to that the poor run of the other batsmen in the team in this series and Amre feels that the situation made Rahane’s knock all the more special.

“You have to accept that this knock was very important career-wise for Rahane, but more importantly, his 159-run partnership with Kohli ensured that India are sitting on top in this game. See, to be honest, it doesn’t help when you get dropped. What happened in South Africa – Rahane was dropped for the first two games -- is something that would have given his confidence a slight beating.

“But I have always believed that fighting adversity is what shows your true character and he did that once again yesterday. But credit must also be given to the openers. That stand of 60 at the top of the innings was just as crucial. It helped Kohli and Rahane to play freely without any pressure,” he signed off.

First Published: Aug 19, 2018 12:48 IST