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I think No.4 is a challenging position: Rahane

India batsman also talks about his stint as opener in Asia Cup 2014

India bid adieu to the Asia Cup 2013-14 with an eight-wicket win over Afghanistan. Ravindra Jadeja dismantled the top order and was complemented by the rest of the attack while bowling the opposition out for a paltry total. Ajinkya Rahane, who has been contributing valuable runs in the middle order, then came out to open the innings with Shikhar Dhawan and propelled the team to victory. The youngster, who has impressed with his batting in recent outings, scored 56 during the chase.

Speaking about his innings, he said, “It is always a good feeling when you score runs, but obviously we are disappointed that we have not qualified for the final. But overall, we had two close matches so the credit should go to the bowlers, because it is not easy to bowl in conditions with dew. But the way the spinners and the fast bowlers bowled was good.”

Rahane, who has opened earlier in his career and continues to open on occasions in other formats in domestic matches, has been batting for the national side in the middle order. While talking opening in ODIs in place of Rohit Sharma, he explained, “Opening the innings was not my decision. It was the management’s decision - the captain and the coach. But I am happy that I went and scored runs.”

Discussing the difference between opening the innings and batting at No.4, he said, “In this innings I opened, earlier in the New Zealand tour, I batted at No.4, and did so in the first three games also. The No.4 position is slightly challenging. It is a new role for me. I am learning at No.4. Today was not my decision. The coach and captain wanted me to open. I am happy that I got 56 and got a few runs for the team. Obviously, we played good cricket, especially Amit Mishra, Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin bowled well and so did Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar.”

Elaborating on the challenges of batting at No.4 and opening, he mentioned, “As an opener you get the first 10 overs of the new ball. I like my instinct and play my shots. At No.4, it depends on situation, whether it is 30 for two or 150 for two when you come in to bat. There are different situations if I bat at No.4. It is very crucial as you have to rotate the strike and play your shots, back your instincts. I think No.4 is a challenging position.”
Asked about his preferred batting position he said, “In T20 and domestic cricket I have opened.”

“This is not in my hands. Frankly speaking, it is up to the team management where they want me to bat,” he reiterated and added, “I am happy that I am batting at No.4. I am learning a lot and it is a new role for me. Also, (I am) looking to the T20 World Cup, really looking (forward) to the challenge.”

While talking about the back-to-back recent series defeats and forthcoming World T20, he said, “We are looking forward to T20 World Cup. We learnt a lot from this Asia Cup, New Zealand and South Africa tours. As a team we learnt, but obviously we did not win. As a young team, we are approaching the game very well. The attitude is good. That’s what matters in cricket. As team members, our boys are putting in the effort.”

Asked about Virat Kohli’s captaincy and MS Dhoni’s leadership, the young batsman said, “Playing under Virat is also a good experience. He is also doing a good job in all the formats of the game. He is also learning a lot from Dhoni Bhai. He handled the team very well, but we missed Dhoni Bhai for this tournament because he is an experienced captain.”

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Report: Asia Cup – Afghanistan vs India

India bow out with a eight-wicket win set up by spinners

India registered a comfortable eight-wicket win over Afghanistan to bow out of the Asia Cup with a bonus point. It was the spinners who set the win up by restricting the Afghans to 159 in 45.2 overs. The Indian slow bowlers ruled the roost with combined figures of 30-5-82-8 as the Afghan batsmen fell hook line and sinker. Later, half-centuries from Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane stirred India home with 17.4 overs to spare.

While the Indians didn’t choose to experiment with their Playing XI in the dead rubber, they did shuffle their batting-order. It was Rahane who walked in to open the innings along with Dhawan. The duo began slowly, collecting 34 runs from nine overs, before going into the innings break.
They came back and continued in the same vein, looking relaxed at the crease, negotiating one ball at a time. The lack of boundaries didn’t bother the Indian openers, as they farmed strike on their way to the first 100-run partnership posted in ODIs against Afghanistan by any team. In the next over, 21st of the innings, both Rahane and Dhawan got their respective fifties.

However, the partnership ended soon after reaching its century-mark as both Rahane and Dhawan departed lbw in consecutive overs. Mirwais Ashraf and Mohammad Nabi were the respective strikers.

Rohit Sharma and Dinesh Karthik walked in at No. 3 and 4 respectively with India needing just over 30 runs to win.

Afghanistan’s innings began on a brisk note as they collected easy 30 runs in the first five overs. Mohammad Shami gave away 23 in his first two before getting the first breakthrough for India. A short ball was played on to the stumps by Navroz Mangal. After the fortuitous wicket, Shami regained his rhythm, giving 10 runs in his next three overs. Although wicketless, Bhuvneshwar Kumar kept things tight in eight overs, giving away merely 25 runs.

In no time, Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra were bowling in tandem. Jadeja had four wickets against his name after five overs – Rahmat Shah was lbw, Noor Ali Zadran was caught in the slip by Virat, Asghar Stanikzai was caught at mid-on trying to pull away a poor short and wide delivery and Mohammad Nabi nicked one to the keeper. Amit Mishra extracted turn and bounce from the wicket and put a display of classical leg-spin bowling with flight, loop and the odd googly.

R Ashwin, like Jadeja, picked up a wicket off his first ball – Najibullah Zadran skied a tossed-up ball as substitute Stuart Binny settled under it at mid-off. After 21 overs, Afghanistan were 83 for 6.

Despite the wickets falling like ninepins, Mohammad Shahzad, Afghanistan’s flamboyant wicketkeeper, did not refrain from striking big. The first ball he faced, off Ashwin, was swept away to the fence. Next over, he hoicked Jadeja for a six over midwicket. His entertaining vigil ended at 22 when an Ashwin carom ball caught him plumb in front of the wicket.

Amidst the chaos of wickets, Samiullah Shenwari took the onus of steadying the Afghan innings. The batsman who had scored an attacking 81 off 69 balls against Bangladesh, adapted to the situation well and played more sedately. His 50 (73 balls) helped Afghanistan get past the 150-run mark before he became Shami’s 50th ODI wicket, concluding the Afghan innings at 159 in 45.2 overs. Reaching the landmark in his 29th match, Shami became the second fastest Indian to get there.

Ashwin finished with 3 for 31 while Mishra’s figures of 1 for 21 belied the trouble he caused to the Afghan batsmen, beating their bats on innumerable occasions.

Man of the Match:
Ravindra Jadeja for his bowling figures of 10-1-30-4