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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.
Very rarely does one see Chris Gayle being outscored in a partnership. It has now happened twice in the last two games that the Royal Challengers Bangalore have played. And the batsman who has done the unthinkable is a little-known, diminutive and soft-spoken lad from Bangalore, Mayank Agarwal.
The 21-year-old is in tremendous form in IPL 2012. He’s been striking the ball brilliantly and fearlessly against some of the better international bowlers. But the young man has set high standards for himself and wants to do more than just getting his team off to flying starts.
After RCB’s shattering loss to the Rajasthan Royals at home, the young opener spoke to iplt20.com about his disappointment of not converting starts into match-winning scores and the experience of opening the batting with Chris Gayle. You have been performing well this season. How’s it like to outscore Chris Gayle in a partnership?
I am striking the ball well, but can’t say I have been playing well because 30’s and 40’s are not taking me or my team anywhere. In games like this, the guy who gets in should be getting a big score. I’ve faulted there quite a few times, and it does not help the team. RCB have lost three out of four games now. This is a surprise given the pedigree of the team. What’s the reason behind this?
I just think that we need to start playing better cricket. We’ve got to bat a little better and I am sure that with the side we have, we are going to come back and make an impact. Last year too we came back from a similar situation. Now all we’ve got to do is focus on the remaining games and come back hard as a team. How is it to open the batting with Chris Gayle?
Batting with him is extremely great. It makes things a lot simpler for you. You know that even if you don’t get runs, he is there to strike it big and we can cover up the run-rate anytime. He is a fantastic player and he can make things simple for you. Hopefully, we can make it count in the next game. What have you learnt from the various international batting stars in RCB?
Backing my ability is what I have learnt from them; just go there, express myself and enjoy my game. I have been talking to them and they are helping me with how to build and pace my innings. It’s a learning curve for me, and I need to start playing myself in.
Were you confident of chasing down the target when you came to bat?
We knew it was a good target and we could chase it down. The least we can do is believe in ourselves and that’s all that is in our hands. It hasn’t happened for us in the four games so far, but we will make it happen.