One of the pleasing sights during the IPL auction, was the smile on the faces of the Rajasthan Royals team when they managed to use their Right to Match for the present Indian Test Vice-captain, Ajinkya Rahane.
His boyish diminutive frame, along with his expressionless and confident gait, walking in to open the innings for RR had become a symbol for millions of IPL viewers. His performance was synonymous with the success and failure of the RR. His return to the den of the Royals’ reminds of one of the most magnificent beasts roaming in the state of Rajasthan, the “Tiger”. His batting has that immortal hand-eye coordination with symmetry and timing, very aptly described in the famous poem by William Blake on the “Tiger”.
Rahane is a very serious, quiet and observant individual. Successful people always have two things on their lips, “Silence and a Smile” and he seems to fall into that category perfectly. Very few Test cricketers can boast of scoring a hundred in New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, England, Sri Lanka and the West Indies, all the top cricket playing countries in the World. A cricketer’s dream is to get a hundred at Lords in England and at the Melbourne Cricket ground (MCG) in Australia. Rahane has etched himself on both the boards by scoring a century at these two sacred grounds.
Rahane grew up in a suburb of Mumbai, Dombivli. His father, in order to keep him from watching TV in the evening enrolled him into karate and fortunately also into a cricket class. He went on to get a black belt in karate. The training, if one looks back, has had a big impact on him, not only in his fitness but also in his concentration and body movements. The precision to optimise the body and mind, the thought and action, is what one can see when he plays his favourite lofted shot over the bowler or the cover fielder.
His early coaching was under the guidance of Ranjan Dhotre, who saw through his talent and made him play cricket for his team at a very young age. On one occasion while playing as a young 12-year-old against a much older bowler called Anna in a match, Rahane got hit on the head. He collapsed and cried but after 15 minutes was back to face the bowler. He then hit him for 4 consecutive boundaries. This attitude and determination one also saw after he was hit on the helmet by the South African pace bowler, Dale Steyn, in a Test match in South Africa. A hard nut to crack as one would teasingly put it. The cliché, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” is ideal when one describes Rahane.
His career has not always been full of roses. His Test debut was not much to talk about and people wrote him off as a cricketer who did not have the skill or temperament to play top-level cricket. He was fortunate that his coach and mentor was Pravin Amre at a time when he was questioning his own ability as a cricketer. Being the coach of Mumbai, he spent many hours in regaining Rahane’s confidence and making a few adjustments to his batting technique. Amre speaks of him as an ideal student. “He is”, he says, “so determined, hard-working and passionate about improving his batting, that it becomes a pleasure to teach and interact with him’. Amre felt that Rahane’s mental strength needed to be enhanced and so he sent him to the serene hills of Malavli near Lonavala, to Swami Parthasarthy’s, Vedanta Academy to develop his concentration and mental strength. The visit there has become now a ritual for Rahane, for him to understand the philosophy of life and the Vedanta form of learning.
"A silent killer" is another expression one associates Rahane with. His innings are full of deft placements and conventional strokes that opponents at times barely realise the runs he has notched up quite effortlessly. Nilesh Kulkarni, a former Test cricketer from Dombivli as well, describes him aptly. He says “on our long journeys into town to play a match, Rahane would be silent, never utter a word, observing and assimilating every word we spoke, but on the field, he was most expressive. This is how he was also perceived to be in the dressing room as well as with his teammates.”
Sachin Tendulkar on his day of retirement went up to Rahane in the dressing room and said that it was now his duty to carry the baton and responsibility of getting runs for India. This was a huge task bestowed on him by the legend and since then Rahane has looked at it as a challenge which he needs to fulfil as successfully.
Rajasthan Royals has been the side that gave Rahane the recognition and opportunity to showcase his ability and talent in the limited over format of the game. The Australian all-rounder Shane Watson, after playing against him, was very impressed by Rahane’s batting and was responsible for persuading RR to recruit him for their IPL side.
Rahane, was fortunate to be nursed and tutored at RR under Rahul Dravid, as his captain and Paddy Upton, as his coach. There was no turning back for Rahane and having experienced and imbibed the RR culture, he will be the “go to man” for the team in all respects in the IPL 2018.
Rahane has another distinguished achievement. One always wonders as to who would surpass my world record and with 8 catches in a match in Sri Lanka, I am happy that my record for the maximum catches in a Test match was broken by him. He is a very good fielder and has the safest pair of hands presently in the Indian side.
RR will need those hands when time comes to safely lead them to victory , silently without much fuss and ado. Very much like a Tiger on the prowl.
About the author:
Yajurvindra Singh is a former cricketer who represented India between 1977 and 1979. He enjoys the unique distinction of achieving 2 world records – 5 catches in an innings, and 7 catches in a match - on his debut.
Disclaimer: Please note that the views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Rajasthan Royals or its management.