Ajinkya Rahane stood out with his leadership qualities Down Under. In a freewheeling chat with TOI, stand in skipper Ajinkya Rahane puts the Australia sojourn in perspective.
Despite talismanic skipper, Virat Kohli’s unavailability after the first Test and the visitors grappling with injury woes to a plethora of first-team players, India led by Ajinkya Rahane produced a comeback for the ages to be remembered for long.
Ajinkya Rahane : Strategy Was Simple To Be Positive And Bounce Back And Accept Whatever Results Are
The beleaguered visitors, under the inspired leadership of Ajinkya Rahane, beat Australia 2-1 in their own backyard to win the 2020-21 Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Ajinkya Rahane was hailed for his brilliant captaincy, sparking a debate whether he should be handed over the reins of the team in the longest format of the game.
“I have always believed I belong at the highest level. It was never a question of self-belief or doubt. What people say, or rather how people generally like to talk, has seldom bothered me. I wasn’t really bothered about what outsiders were saying (post Adelaide, when he took over). What people talk or think is their problem,” on self belief after waiting 2 years and 16 Tests to make his debut.
” I knew Virat (Kohli) would be leaving after the first Test, so it was already on my mind – what my plans would be, what kind of strategy I would adopt, how I would use each player, (my) message to them. If you look at the Adelaide Test, apart from that one hour of madness, we played good cricket – especially the first two days,” said Ajinkya Rahane on Virat Kohli’s absence and 36 all out.
“But then that one hour took everything away from us. To say it was disappointing will be an understatement. In hindsight we just didn’t know how to react. The only thought that had to remain at the top of our minds was, how do we bounce back? ” said Ajinkya Rahane on bouncing back after 36.
“The strategy was simple. Let’s stick together, let’s back ourselves, walk out with a positive attitude and a fighting spirit. And let’s accept whatever the result is,” on strategy adapted.
Ajinkya Rahane showed utmost patience in keeping the side galvanized amid injury woes. He was the guiding light for the youngsters like Washington Sundar, Shardul Thakur, Mohammed Siraj and T Natarajan who stepped up in the absence of senior players and gave their best to outclass the Aussies in their own backyard.
Ajinkya Rahane Realized That Melbourne Knock Is Bigger
Virat Kohli remains India’s most successful Test skipper with 33 Test wins in 56 Tests while Ajinkya Rahane has won 4 Tests while 1 was drawn as skipper. India’s stand-in captain calm and composed Ajinkya Rahane led from the front with a match-winning knock of 112, which is his 12th Test century. It was his second century in Australia and one that will be among his favourite and most cherished in the heart.
“But later I realised, and others also pointed out, that the Melbourne knock is bigger,” on MCG ton.“When you play Australia in Australia, remember they’ll come with everything they’ve got. They’ll come hard. Even in 2018-19, that’s what happened, ” said Ajinkya Rahane.
“So, it’s not the first time that an Indian team has copped verbal abuse while playing overseas. But when you go after colour and things like that – that stuff is not acceptable at all,” said the captain on racism.
“From whoever was available, the question was how to pick the best combination and make best use of available resources. The bowling combination was under greater consideration because, again, it was about whether to go in with the fifth bowler or an extra batsman, ” said skipper on picking best XI at Brisbane.
“When Shubman got out, I thought I should carry on that momentum and try and play a bit freely. That was the discussion with Pujara, that I’ll go looking for runs and he stays at the other end and does what he was doing, just hold that end, ” said he on Brisbane chase.
“His determination, focus… these qualities have to be admired. Willing to get hit for his team, taking body blows, it was a phenomenal feat. It’s about what your team needs and how gutsy and mentally tough you are,” on Cheteshwar Pujara, who faced 1258 balls on the 2018-19 Australia tour and 928 balls this time around.
He is well aware of his gameplan. The same strategy worked for him in Sydney, where he got 97. He was very disappointed there when he got out. He played a similar innings in Brisbane as well, ” on Rishabh Pant.