July 17, 2014. Ajinkya Rahane will remember this day for the rest of his life. On this day, he became only the second Indian to score a century in his first innings at the Lord’s. The first was Sourav Ganguly.
What made Rahane’s 103 all the more special is that it helped India get out of jail on a wicket as green as the outfield. Thanks to him and his 90-run stand with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, from 145 for 7, the visitors finished the first day of the Lord’s Test with 290 for 9.
“I was actually a bit nervous last night because I’ve heard so many people say that a century at Lord’s is supposed to be a very special achievement,” he admitted. “These thoughts are there somewhere in your head but today I decided that I will not think about all that and just play the ball on its merit. It worked.”
Rahane has defied the perception of Indian batsmen being vulnerable in overseas conditions. His top five Test scores have come in New Zealand, England and South Africa. He said he feels at home in such conditions having grown up playing cricket on Wankhede Stadium’s pace friendly pitch.
“I am actually comfortable batting in overseas conditions. I have played most my cricket on the Wankhede Stadium wicket, which has good bounce and pace and the ball does swing around. So, I enjoy batting on such wickets.” He said.
Rahane looked at ease against the swinging ball, even as wickets fell before and around him. However, the No. 5 credited the batsmen who came ahead of him for playing out the morning session.
“It’s a great feeling to get a hundred here but I’ll give credit to our top-order batsmen – Vijay, Shikhar, Pujara and Virat. They batted out the crucial part of the day which made things easy for Bhuvi and me later.”
Speaking of his eighth wicket partnership with Bhuvi – who got two fifties in the first Test – Rahane praised his lower-order batting partner for his confidence and batting acumen.
“Bhuvi is batting so well. Standing at the non-striker’s end I was learning a lot about his batting,” he said. “When he came in to bat, I asked him if he was okay with us taking a single. He said he was perfectly okay. He’s such a confident guy now and is batting so well. So, I completely trusted him as well as Shami. He too batted well.”
Being a natural top-order batsman, batting with the tailenders is a skill that Rahane has had to develop batting at No. 5 or 6 for India. He said he is learning the art watching and talking to the people who have done so successfully.
“I learned much about batting with the tail during the Durban Test when I got 51* and 96. When I got out on 96 I was thinking about my hundred and went for it. Now I realize that when batting with tailenders, you’ve got to have faith in them. That’s what I did in Wellington and also today.
“It’s challenging batting with tailenders. I’ve been watching Mike Hussey’s videos and learning how he batted with the tailenders. I have learnt a lot speaking with our players as well. Virat batted with tailenders in Australia, Dhoni bhai has been doing that regularly too. I’ve been talking to them and it has really helped me with regards to this aspect of my batting,” he said.
With one wicket to go before England bat on this wicket, Rahane hoped the last pair of Ishant and Shami add a few quick runs before coming on to bowl. He wished the Indian bowlers would learn from the mistakes of their English counterparts, who erred on the shorter side in the first and the last session.
“In the first session they bowled a little short but came with a different plan in the second session and bowled a fuller length. In the final session again Plunkett was trying to bowl short. I think shorter length balls are going to be a bit easier to play on this wicket than the fuller ones.
“I’m sure our bowlers will learn from this and bowl a fuller length. I’m sure Ishant and Shami will get us 25-30 quick runs and it’s not going to be easy for the England batsmen to bat on this wicket against them.”