It was a combination of fire and water. The Australian bowlers burned and drowned at the same time for 57.5 overs as Virat Kohli (169) and Ajinkya Rahane (147) notched up an epic 262-run partnership for the fourth wicket.
The beauty of the alliance lied as much in the two elements showing their own respective characteristics as it did in the extremity at which the traits came to the fore.
Virat’s fire burnt like a candle – soothing to those who watched from afar; scorching those who dared flicker the flame. Rahane was a deep sea – an epitome of calmness that engulfs giant ships.
Their coalition rescued India from the burden of Australia’s 530 runs and enabled them reduce the deficit to 68 at the end of the third day of the Boxing Day Test.
Here’s what one half of the pair – Ajinkya Rahane – told BCCI.TV about how he and Virat complemented and helped each other through their monumental effort.
Lord’s and now MCG – you seem to have a knack of picking out special venues for scoring centuries!
It’s a happy coincidence. I was pretty determined to get a big score today because I am batting really well. I scored 62 in Adelaide and 81 in Brisbane, and feel I am in very good form. I knew a big innings was around the corner. I went in to bat with a lot of confidence today. I went in with a positive mindset because I knew scoring big runs on this wicket was very crucial. There was a risk factor but I felt it was in my favour.
You went in to bat in a bit of tricky position, after the loss of two quick wickets. But you batted as if you were already batting on 40!
I was in a very good zone even before going in to bat. My plans were clear – I was going to play aggressive cricket. What boosted my intent was the chat I had with Virat after going in. He said to me that even before this series started, our aim was to play aggressive cricket and so I should adhere to that and play my shots. We have seen in the past as well that in Australia, the teams who have batted with positive intent have been successful. That conversation was very important for me.
Did it help you get into your groove early that you didn’t start your innings against Johnson and Harris?
I started by facing Watson, Lyon and Hazlewood and the plan was to attack them and bring back Harris and Johnson back. We wanted those two – Australia’s best bowlers in the first session – to come back into the attack as soon as possible so that we can tire them out early. That’s why I targeted the other three bowlers.
Aussie pacers started off with tight, aggressive line. Did you feel they lost their way a bit when that partnership between you and Virat flourished?
A bit, yes. Virat and I were scoring runs at a very good clip and I think that made them go defensive. After a while they were focusing more on crippling the runs rather than getting us out. That made things easier for us because since we both were pretty well set by that time, we could still score runs reasonably freely.
After tea, they came in with the bouncer strategy. Did you enjoy smacking Johnson for those three boundaries in an over, especially the one you played over midwicket clearing your front foot?
I did enjoy it. I didn’t really plan to hit that shot. It just came instinctively. I saw the ball and just knew where I’d hit it. I cleared the front foot and lofted it. I was able to pull it off because I was in a different zone today.
Was it a ploy to hit Johnson out of the attack?
The plan was to keep scoring runs against him. When he started bowling those bouncers, we didn’t want to just keep leaving them and boost his confidence. We wanted to score and put him under more pressure. We also knew that on this pitch it was equally important for us to score runs as it was to stay at the wicket. There is not much bounce here and even the short balls were coming at a height comfortable enough to pull. We were batting in good conditions and scoring was the key.
Tell me about the little banter between Virat and Johnson.
I was enjoying the way Virat handled it and responded to Johnson. My nature is completely different. I will, at the most look at the bowler, never say anything. Virat, on the other hand, becomes more focused and determined when he has a bit of a chat with the opponents. For me it was interesting to observe how he responded both with words and bat.
It started when Johnson threw the ball back and it hit Virat. Did you have a chat with him after that?
Yes, I just told him, ‘Continue to be aggressive and do whatever works for you. But between balls just keep talking to yourself and keep your mind in control’. He appreciated what I told him and he asked me to keep talking to him if and when I feel the need for it. That communication was very important at that time.
Before this your highest Test score was 118. When you got to 100, was it on your mind that this is your chance to score a big hundred?
I was very keen on that. In Test cricket if a set batsman gets out it is very difficult for the new man coming in. Also, the bowlers were tiring at that time and we both had to be at the wicket to cash in on that. So, Virat and I made a conscious effort to not let our concentration break even for a second. It was a hot day and we were experiencing cramps. It was very crucial to keep the mind in control. We helped each other along the way.
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