Classically yours, Rahane

RR’s centurion has combined technique with tenacity to score big

Bengaluru 16 April 2012
Subtleness is beautiful. But sometimes, it takes loudness to bring that beauty to the fore. Ajinkya Rahane in IPL 2012 is a classic case in point. A first-class average of 60 over 50 games (18 centuries) is an enviable record. But Rahane was never surrounded by the adulation that his more famous batting peers – Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma – basked in.

Now, with a 60-ball unbeaten knock of 103 against a bowling attack comprising Muttiah Muralitharan, Daniel Vettori and Zaheer Khan, the 23-year-old has provided a thumping reminder of his talent. The current Orange Cap-holder of IPL 2012 has also debunked the myth of not being suited to the shortest format of cricket due to his correct technique.

Hearteningly, Rahane’s has achieved a strike-rate of over 146 without losing the classical touch. The majority of Rahane’s runs have come from drives, cuts and pulls straight from the MCC coaching manual rather than from hard slogs for sixes. He’s already hit 35 fours, the most by a single player this season, and 18 more than the second-placed Owais Shah. His eight sixes are third to Owais’s 11.

While he scores his runs with fluency and freedom, Rahane is a man of few words. All he had to say about his maiden IPL century was, “This is the best knock for me.” When asked whether the 100 was on his mind, he answered, “I wasn’t thinking about the 100. I just wanted to bat 20 overs.”

The plan to achieve that goal was simple yet effective – see the three best bowlers through without too much fuss and score off the others. When you’re young and are hitting the ball like Rahane has been doing of late, it’s easy to get carried away. But he stuck to his plan and executed it to perfection. Zaheer and Vettori were played out with due respect. S Aravind was milked for 43 off 14 balls, that included six fours in an over. And when Muralitharan pitched the ball in his slot, Rahane clobbered him for two straight sixes.

The man who had the best seat in the house as Rahane played his sparkling shots was his partner in the 121-run stand, Owais Shah. Although he himself scored a breathtaking 60 off 26 balls, Shah couldn’t stop raving about his young colleague’s knock.

“He is a special talent,” Shah said. “I think there’s a calmness about him that shows that he’s always in control. He plays the ball very late and times it beautifully. He’s definitely got a bright future ahead of him. He plays proper cricket shots; he’s not a slogger. I was very lucky to have shared that partnership with him and I thought he batted beautifully,” Shah said.

Rahane’s shot-making with tight technique, combined with an uncluttered mind and solid temperament, is what sets him apart. It also shows that the young man has chosen his heroes well. Since he was a kid, Rahane has idolised Rahul Dravid. A product of the Bombay school of batsmanship, he has modelled his body language and bat flow on the legend from Bangalore.

In the IPL, Rahane opens the batting with Dravid. No wonder he feels blessed. “He’s my role model and every day I want to learn new things from him. It is a great opportunity to bat with him,” he said enthusiastically about his hero. But the transformation from a starry-eyed boy to a mature young cricketer is seamless. “This is a long tournament; this is just the fifth match and I need to carry on my form,” he said cautiously.

With the World Twenty20 approaching, Rahane’s class and current form will make it extremely difficult for selectors to look past him. But the young man who slammed a 39-ball 61 on T20I debut in England wants to focus on the present. “I’m not thinking too far ahead. Yes, the IPL is a great platform for youngsters to make a mark at the international level, but all I want to do is continue my form.”

The young man is determined not getting carried away, but it is difficult not to get excited about such a talent – even for the man whose place Rahane might take in the future. “Wht a innings played by Rahane.. Treat to watch.. He has great future ahead..” Virender Sehwag tweeted shortly after Rahane’s landmark performance.

Now when one talks of India’s batting future, Ajinkya Rahane will not be an afterthought.
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