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The blue-eyed boy of the Rajasthan Royals squad, Ajinkya Rahane played yet another sublime innings as the hosts successfully chased down 197 at their fortress. The youngster continues to elicit applause in equal measure from fellow cricketers and spectators as he entertains them with breathtaking strokes. Today, at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium, he played the patient partner as his skipper and fellow opener Rahul Dravid scored freely.
After making a valuable 31-ball 44-run contribution, as his team beat Deccan Chargers to top the IPL 2012 table again, the orange cap holder told iplt20.com that the key to his success is calmness. Excerpts from Rahane’s interview:
What are your thoughts on today’s big win?
It was a very good victory. It was a very good team effort today. All the batsmen and everyone contributed. It feels very good when everyone contributes and you win the match. I am very happy with the team’s performance.
In the previous match, you set the opposition a similar target, but today you had to chase a big target; so what was the strategy while chasing?
The toss is not in our hand, but they batted well to put 196 runs on the board. While going out to bat, we had decided that if we could give a good opening start [and] if we lose few wickets early on, then we have batsmen lower down the order who can score runs and get to the target. So the strategy that Rahul [Dravid] bhai and I had was to play positively [go for the runs], but at the same time if we don’t give away wickets, they [the opposition] will be under pressure. Luckily things went our way today. What about the shot off Amit Mishra that cost you your wicket and another fifty and possibly, another big score?
I wasn’t thinking of the fifty. [...] Sometimes shots like that, if you are able to middle them, they go for a six. In T20 you have to maintain the run-rate also, so you have to take a few chances. I took that chance, but today it didn’t work. But that’s okay; we won, so that’s good.
What was the feeling in the dugout in the last four overs as the game headed towards a tight finish?
In the last four overs we knew that Dale Steyn, who is their main bowler, had overs left [and he] would bowl. Playing his overs was important, and the plan was not to give him wickets, but at the same time [Brad] Hodge batted really well and picked runs off him [Steyn], and that brought more pressure on their other bowlers. The way Hodge and Dishant [Yagnik] played in the end was very good. Today Rahul Dravid was scoring at a quicker pace. Did you decide to play the supporting role?
In the beginning he got more strike, and sometimes when you are in a flow, the runs come [smoothly] and sometimes you have to work hard for your runs. Today, I think Rahul bhai was in a good flow while batting. So my plan was if there is a loose ball, I will capitalize on that, but at the same time I would rotate the strike and try to give him more strike. Do you think the Rajasthan Royals were too expensive in the last six overs?
It was a decent bowling effort by our bowlers, according to me. They – JP Duminy and Daniel Christian –batted really well today. They hit the ball really well in the last few overs. Back to being table toppers; what is the plan to maintain the momentum?
Playing consistent cricket is very important. It is a very big tournament and whichever team plays consistently will be able to reach the finals. I am not saying that they will win, but playing consistently is very important. We will try to take something positive from every match that we play, and start from scratch in the next match. We all know that cricket is a funny game, and every day is a new day. You have been performing consistently well and scoring runs at a quick pace without playing risky shots and by being technically sound. What is the key to your success so far?
The calmer you are able to stay when you are out in the middle, the more you can think [while batting]. I think of staying calm and try to play the ball on its merit. I know that if you play cricketing shots, the runs will come. And we have discussed that if you score runs on cricketing shots, then bowlers also start thinking about what length to bowl to you. So would you say that the key to your batting is mental calmness?
RR now has a break for the next few days. What is the plan now?
We have continuously played four games in about six days. We have finished on a winning note, so we will take it all positively. But we play our next game against CSK [Chennai Super Kings], which is a big team, so accordingly we will prepare ourselves mentally for that.
Losing a match after setting the opposition a target of 197 runs is always disappointing. And today, it was the Deccan Chargers that trudged back to the pavilion with their heads down after they lost to the Rajasthan Royals at the Sawai Mansing Stadium.
The team from Hyderabad have now lost all the three games that they have played in IPL 2012. Today, although they batted well, it was their bowling and poor fielding and half chances that cost the visitors the match. After losing a game that could have gone either way till the last over, a disappointed coach Darren Lehmann said, “[...] we have work to do. We are close but close is not going to get us anywhere as long as we don’t actually win the games.”
Opener Shikhar Dhawan, who was instrumental in setting up a good target for the opposition, scored 52 runs and was involved in a 94-run opening stand with skipper Kumar Sangakkara. He spoke to iplt20.com after the match.
On winning the toss and opting to bat first
It was good track, so we had thought that we would put up a big score on the board; and we did that. On whether the target they had set RR was sufficient
Yes absolutely! [Approximately] 200 runs are a lot to get.
On managing Dale Steyn’s four overs
Yes, [we have to manage them]. We had planned that Dale Steyn would bowl the last two overs, and he did. But unfortunately, the game did not go our way. The other bowlers, Anand [Rajan], Amit Mishra and others also bowled [alright]. There is a strategy of who will bowl when.
On the 94-run opening partnership
I and Kumar Sangakkara had a good opening partnership, and hope that we continue to have such opening stands.
On the acceleration in the last few overs, when Daniel Christain and JP Duminy added 88 runs in 6.5 overs
Yes [we had decided to accelerate]. Things went according to plan as we had decided in the last five overs.
On what had gone wrong
Our fielding was loose; we conceded too many runs [in the field]. And so the game went away from us.
On whether there would be changes in the team going into the next game
I wouldn’t know. The coach will know.
On the areas that DC need to work on
We would work more on the fielding. We were working on it earlier too but now we would stress on it a bit more.