WELLINGTON: For all his calm, composure and class at the crease, Ajinkya Rahane knows that he was living on borrowed time; despite a near-hundred in Tests and three 50s in One-dayers, he was slowly falling into the start-go mould: get a good start and go mess it up.
On Saturday, he shattered that myth by stroking a beautiful, quietly-commanding century that put India right on top of the second Test; when he came in, the match was still very much open at 165 for 5. He shut it down with a fighting knock, not succumbing to the lure of loose shots.
“I don’t know how to express my feelings,” he said, shortly after the day’s play. “A Test hundred is always special… and first hundred…I will remember it for a long time. it’s very special for me,” he added.
Just two Tests earlier, he was within striking distance too on an equally tough Durban pitch; but as he began to run out of partners, he abandoned caution and was dismissed for 96, heartbreakingly short of deserving hundred.
“This time in my 90s, when me and Zaheer were batting, I wasn’t thinking of my hundred. I told him to play his normal game, play the way you like, I told him, I am not thinking about my hundred,” he revealed, giving confidence to his partner.
Rahane was appreciative of the role played by Rahul Dravid in his success. “I have been following him since childhood. He is my role model and I have played with him in the Indian team and with Rajasthan Royals, so I’ve really learnt a lot, on and off the field. Just want to thank him. Also want to thank Sachin paaji because he told me. ‘I have been following you, your hard work and your fitness, just be patient and wait for your chance.'”
Talking about his approach, he said: “I just wanted to play one ball at a time. I was trying to take as much strike as possible. I was telling him (Zaheer), ‘I will play 4-5 balls and take a single off the last ball.’ That really helped me because I was in the present, and wasn’t thinking what’s going to happen.”
In the beginning too, Rahane had a simple gameplan: “When I went into bat, I just wanted to take my time. Just wanted to play my game, whatever I have been doing in domestic cricket and continue that way. I am really happy that I got a hundred.”
He was thankful for the support and confidence that Dhoni gave him in the middle. “His innings gave me a lot of confidence, because I batted with him in South Africa too. He just told me to back myself, to play my shots. I played one ball at a time and didn’t think too much. That really helped me.”
The 25-year-old was gracious enough to accept that conditions were much tougher to bat on the first day. “The first day was really helpful for the bowlers. Today there was little bit help for them but not that much,” he said.”We just have to be patient tomorrow, and bowl in the right areas,” he added.