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Features and Interviews

Rahane keen to convert starts

Batsman vows to make his starts count; said he enjoyed opening the batting

Ajinkya Rahane had batted in the top-three all his life before he was converted into a middle-order batsman for India. Often batting at five in Tests and four in ODIs, Rahane was called upon to revisit the opening slot in the third ODI against England, at Trent Bridge to replace the injured Rohit Sharma.

And the Mumbai lad responded with a bristling 45 (56 balls) laced with attractiveness and aggression in equal measure. While his knock set the tone for India’s six-wicket win, Rahane was aware that he once again had wasted a fine start.

After his match-winning century in the Lord’s Test, Rahane has gone past 20 five times without converting it into a three-figure mark. In the second ODI too, he got out for 41.

In an interview with
BCCI.TV, Rahane said these numbers are not lost on him. He vowed to sort the issue out. With his current form, he was confident that a big one is around the corner.

How was it opening the batting after so long?

I was really excited and enjoyed opening again. I knew I was batting well and I know the conditions well by now. I went in with a very positive mindset. I knew the ball swings a bit initially but I decided that I wouldn’t go into my shell. My first priority will be to score runs. I was determined to play my shots.

How do you have to adjust your mindset with the change in batting position?

When you’ve been batting at four and suddenly open for a match, it does require a lot of change in the mindset. To face the new ball, you need to go in with a different attitude as you would when you walk in to bat in the middle overs. However, it wasn’t that difficult for me because I am familiar with the opening slot.

You batted with two batsmen – Shikhar and Virat – who haven’t scored too many runs recently. As the in-form partner, what role do you play when batting with them?

Shikhar was actually batting well today. In ODI cricket, sometimes, even a good shot can get you out. I thought the shot that he got out to wasn’t a bad one. He played it well and it came from the middle of the bat. Unfortunately it went straight into the hands of the fielder.

As for Virat, there is nothing wrong with him. He is a fine player and he is actually looking good while he is out there batting. It’s tough on him that he is getting out cheaply despite batting well. This phase will only make him a much better cricketer. I don’t need to do much when it comes to giving him confidence as his batting partner because Virat is very aware of his game. He knows what he is doing and his confidence comes from that. The only discussion Virat and I had was that we will not let the England bowlers dominate us.

After the Lord’s century, one common factor about your innings is that you get a start and then get out softly. Is it a lapse in concentration?

To be honest, I too am wondering why this is happening with me and that too, so often. I think I need to make a conscious effort to bat very tight once I reach that stage of my innings. Saying that, I also need to ensure I don’t stop scoring completely and keep the run-flow going. I generally have a good concentration level and the lapses don’t happen often. This is a very strange phase for me. But I know that it is just a matter of one innings before I get past this issue. Once I cross the 50-60 mark, I am pretty sure I can go on to score a big one.

The team looks like a totally changed unit. The spring in the stride is back and the fielding is wonderful. What has changed?

The new boys who have joined the team, have brought in a lot of fresh energy. Also, talking about the fielding, we are a very good fielding side. Yes we didn’t do well in the Tests but that doesn’t make us a bad fielding unit. Mohit affected a brilliant run-out today and Raina took a superb catch in slip. We have made a conscious effort to be energetic on the field and back each other. Even while practicing, we are doing it with the same intensity that is required in a match. We were really hurt after what happened in the Test series but we knew that we have to move on. We helped each other in getting over the hurt and to channel our focus on the ODI series. When we won the second ODI, we prepared for this ODI from the scratch.

Features and Interviews

When it Raina-ed in Cardiff

Suresh Raina tells us what inspired his match-winning century in the second ODI

When Suresh Raina came to England to join the ODI team, his biggest aim was to make the Indian dressing room a happy place. He wanted to bring new spirit in the side smarting from the Test series defeat and get them back on the winning track with his performances.

In the second ODI, at Cardiff, Raina did both.

He lifted the team’s batting with a 100-run knock, off 75 balls. His knock was a perfect blend of flamboyance and stubbornness. He was both ‘
bindaas’ and ‘khadoos’. It was his first ODI century since 2010 and his first outside the subcontinent.

When he was in the field, Raina clapped away, egged his mates on, ran around like a spring chicken and bowled a straight, skiddy delivery to catch Chris Jordan plumb in front of the wicket. His bowling figures were 3-0-12-1.

After India’s 133-run win, Raina spoke to
BCCI.TV about what motivated him to produce such brilliant performance and how he executed it.

You have hit the ground running!

I felt really good scoring my first ODI century in three years. I told you the last time we spoke that I want to bring in fresh energy in the team, and I am glad I could do that with my overall performance today. This knock is one of the most special ones for me given the circumstances and the conditions. We hadn’t won the game in a long time and to help the team break that jinx with a century was very satisfying.
  
You looked very determined and sure about yourself out there – almost like a man on a mission.

After all the work I had put into my game in Mumbai with Sachin paaji and Amre sir, I was determined to join the team and bring them some happiness, whether it is by scoring a hundred or taking a brilliant catch. I had to bring the smiles back on my teammates’ faces. I am glad I could do that today. The team’s environment is very good right now and I hop we continue this performance in the remaining matches.

How did the team get over the Test defeats?

We didn’t do well in the Test series but that doesn’t mean we are a bad team. We are ranked No. 2 in ODIs and are the reigning World Cup and Champions Trophy winners. MS did a very good job of leading the team after the Tests and maintain the confidence of the young boys. We had decided that we would run for each other and share each other’s success. That showed in our fielding performance.

Was it easy to instill that self-belief again?

Ravi Shastri gave us a lot of confidence. He came in the team meeting and said a few words to the team which were very inspiring. He was also sitting with me in the bus when we were on our way to the stadium and he told me, “khadoos khelna hai (play a stubborn game)”. There is a different comfort level when you talk to a former Indian player; you can be free and honest. All the other coaches have been very supportive as well but Ravi Shastri set the tone for us and instilled confidence in the team.

You and MS know each other’s game so well now. Does it bring a special comfort factor when you are batting with him?

The good thing about batting with MS is that he knows my game and he would never ask me to give up my natural game. At the same time, he would keep talking to me during the innings to ensure I don’t throw it away. After I got my fifty, I got a bit conscious because I hadn’t scored a century since a long time and I wanted to finish well. Rohit also got out after his fifty and I was determined to carry on till the end. So I played khadoos for a while. After a while I started to play my shots, which did disturb the bowlers’ rhythm. They struggled with their field placements and bowling areas. That’s when I knew that I was dominating them and was thinking one step ahead of them.

We were speaking about your bowling the other day. You seem to be taking it very seriously.

Yes, I bowled well and got Jordan’s wicket. Sometimes, even if you are a part-time bowler, after you bowl four-five tight overs you gain much more confidence and it becomes difficult for the batsmen to take you lightly. I have worked a lot on my bowling and I hope I get to bowl a lot in the future as well.