Ajinkya Rahane | IANS
Ajinkya Rahane | IANS

Having made his international debut in August 2011, India batsman Ajinkya Rahane has come a long way. He is one of the rare Asian batsmen, who boast the average of above fifty in Test cricket outside the subcontinent. While Rahane has amassed 2883 runs in 44 Tests with 9 tons thus far, he has notched up 2962 runs in 90 ODIs including 3 centuries.

However, the journey to becoming one of the premier Indian batsmen hasn’t been a smooth one for Rahane.  In an exclusive interview with Times of India on Friday (April 27), the elegant right-hander opened up about his struggling days and how it was playing alongside the legendary Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid in the early part of his career.

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“There were challenges but since my childhood I always felt that you can either go up or go down, there is no middle path. So, you have to choose your path. What motivated me was when I used to travel in the Mumbai local trains for four hours every day just to play cricket. I grew up watching Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid and playing alongside them was mesmerizing for me,” Rahane told TOI.

“Whenever I play my focus and attitude are always same, whether I am playing for my club, my state or my country. Sachin in his last Test told me that ‘your attitude is your greatest strength’. He said that he has been watching me since my initial days and many people have skills but this attitude is rare which keeps one motivated in all situations,” he added.

The 29-year-old Rahane was shouldered with the responsibility to lead Rajasthan Royals in IPL 2018 after Steve Smith was suspended by BCCI from the cash-rich event for his involvement in the ball-tampering saga.

Talking about the entire state of affairs, Ajinkya said: “At that time I was playing and heard about it later. Obviously I felt pretty bad. The ICC and Cricket Australia (CA) took whatever action they had to take and I cannot comment on it. But yes, it does feel bad. If you are not allowed to do something that you love for a year, you can very well imagine how it feels.”

“What’s done is done, we can’t control these things. Smith is a quality and an experienced player. Definitely I respect Steve Smith and we miss him at RR but I always feel that cricket is a team sport and every player is equally important,” he elaborated.

When asked if he is under pressure to perform as a captain of an esteemed IPL franchise, Rahane said: “Definitely, not only the captain, but all the players have to deal with pressure. But being a captain is definitely a bigger responsibility. Especially as an IPL team captain because there are players from all over and they have different cultural backgrounds. So you need to deal with bringing out the best in each of them while understanding their cultural background. You can’t handle every player with the same approach. Each player is motivated by different things. So as a captain it is very important to understand that. Definitely, there is a pressure but I always try to take it positively.”

Recently, Gautam Gambhir grabbed the attention of the cricket fraternity for stepping down as a Delhi Daredevils captain. Expressing his views on the matter, Rahane said: “It’s not the captain’s fault when the team fails to perform. Sometimes certain combinations don’t work. It doesn’t always work out the way you plan. I don’t think it’s any of his fault how things play out. I’m sure when he took up Delhi’s captaincy he had the same purpose that all of us have, to make sure the team wins.”

“I know him well and I’ve seen him play for India for so long. He’s a passionate player and a good captain, but there are always some ups and downs that we all have to face as a player and leader. But from what I know of Gautam, his attitude on the field is really great. He has taken responsibility for the team not performing and that is really commendable,” he concluded.

By salman anjum