I will never give up: Ajinkya Rahane | Crickit
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I will never give up: Ajinkya Rahane

By, Mumbai
Apr 09, 2023 12:51 PM IST

The seasoned batter grabbed a late selection in the CSK playing eleven by hammering a match-winning 27-ball 61against Mumbai Indians at his home ground

Ajinkya Rahane has played 192 international matches, including 82 Tests. He has got runs in the toughest of conditions, against the best of bowling attacks. For almost nine years, from 2013 to 2022, he was a permanent fixture in the Test side’s middle-order.

Chennai Super Kings Ajinkya Rahane plays a shot during the match against Mumbai Indians(IndianPremierLeague/Twitter)
Chennai Super Kings Ajinkya Rahane plays a shot during the match against Mumbai Indians(IndianPremierLeague/Twitter)

In a distinguished career, Rahane has also captained India in crucial Tests, leading the side to two famous series wins against Australia (at home in 2017 and away in 2021). He has played more than 150 IPL games and also captained. Yet, the 34-year-old has reasons to believe he has unfinished business in the game.

Also Read | 'Like his captain, Jadeja is...': Sunil Gavaskar namedrops MS Dhoni to salute CSK stars after Chennai rout Mumbai

For the last three IPL seasons, he has been reduced to a fringe player. After losing captaincy at Rajasthan Royals in 2019 and eventually parting ways, Rahane had three forgettable seasons at Delhi Capitals and later Kolkaka Knight Riders to be written off as a T20 batter. He lost his place in the Test side as well at the start of 2022.

On Saturday night at Wankhede, to the surprise of many, he turned the clock back with a dazzling 61 off 27 balls, in the process scoring the fastest fifty of IPL 2023. There was genuine appreciation and warmth in the way former players-turned-commentators came forward to congratulate him as he walked across the ground for media interactions.

For a player of his stature, everyone feels he deserves a better end to his career. It was his first IPL fifty since 2020. The beauty of his match-winning knock against Mumbai Indians was the display of his pure cricketing shots, dismantling the bowling with sublime timing rather than power-hitting.

“I was still hitting sixes (without power hits), that is important. Every player is different, the strengths are different. I don’t want to be somebody else. I just want to be Ajinkya Rahane, the way I know how to play, my strengths, my weaknesses, my timing. I just want to back myself. I never tried to be someone else, it’s all about trying to remind myself if I can be Ajinkya Rahane and play like Ajinkya Rahane, I will be fine.”

CSK MAGIC

His impactful innings is also being attributed to the CSK-effect. The Chennai franchise is known for providing a conducive atmosphere, allowing their good players to perform to potential. The franchise had bought Rahane at his base price at the auction.

"I was really happy when CSK picked me. How they treat each and every individual. Before this I had heard from many players, it is really like a family. I know now. I have played under Mahi bhai (MS Dhoni) a lot of times in the Indian team, at CSK it was for the first time. I am really enjoying: the atmosphere is the same whether we win or lose.”

Also Read: Ajinkya Rahane shatters MS Dhoni’s 11-year-old record after whirlwind 23-run over as CSK thrash MI in IPL 2023

It could be the confidence and clarity of role CSK give or the technical inputs of their support staff, but something did click for Rahane. During CSK's training on the eve of the game, the Mumbai Ranji captain was among the early set of batters. He had a long stint followed by an intense discussion with batting coach Mike Hussey. During the nets, his focus was on timing the ball, rather than power hits. He took the same approach into the match.

There were no slog sweeps or reverse sweeps, only pure cricketing shots. In the third over, he made his intentions clear with a six off Jason Behrendorff to square-leg before wading into Arshad Khan for a 6, 4, 4, 4, 4, taking him for 23 runs in the fourth over.

Asked about his struggles in the past three IPL seasons, Rahane said: “What’s gone is gone, I don’t think about my past. I try to learn from the mistakes I made.

"This (CSK) atmosphere helps the cricketer to give his best on the field and I think the preparation we had as a team before IPL (helped). We came to Chennai and started our camp from March 3, Mahi bhai was there. The instructions from him were very simple: 'play to your strengths, when you get the opportunity just back your game’.”

Rahane was told at the last minute that he would play in place of the indisposed Moeen Ali. Probably the Impact Player rule helped Rahane's cause because Ambati Rayudu is the first choice. Or else, he may be warming the bench. CSK can now use Rayudu and Rahane.

Rahane was preferred in the eleven because he is a more agile fielder. And Rayudu can play as Impact Player if CSK fielded first, like on Saturday.

Not that Rahane will need that rule for the next game. He should now be a certainty.

It was such a dominating innings that CSK’s top-scorer in the tournament, Ruturaj Gaikwad, was overshadowed in their partnership. After the six powerplay overs, out of CSK’s total of 68/1, Rahane had made 53 off 20 balls, while Gaikwad was batting on 8 (12 balls). The young opener finished on a 36-ball 40 not out.

It was only Rahane's first impactful IPL innings, but the classy run-making will raise hopes of a Test comeback given that a slot has opened up owing to Shreyas Iyer's back injury, with the World Test Championship final to be played at the Oval in June.

Rahane, though, laughed it off. “Still, a long way to go. Today, I was not sure about my place in the eleven, (and) got to know just before the toss. For me, it is about playing one game at a time and staying in the moment.”

“Anything can happen. I will never give up. For me it is about playing with enjoyment and passion," he added.

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