Ajinkya Rahane had started doubting his ability to play Test cricket: Pravin Amre
India batsman's personal coach reveals to MiD DAY the agony his protege underwent during the near two-year wait for a regular berth in the playing XI
After the Durban Test, Mahendra Singh Dhoni touched upon what Ajinkya Rahane did when he was part of the Indian squad but rarely got to play in the past couple of years. The skipper said he did not sit idle and ‘worked very hard on his fitness, technique and temperament’.
Rahane’s batting was one of the saving graces for Dhoni’s team on a winless tour of South Africa. He hit 47 and 15 in the Johannesburg Test and followed it up with a fighting 51 and 96 in the final Test at Durban which the hosts won by 10 wickets. He also effected a couple of crucial run-outs.
Rahane’s gritty show against the fiery South African pacemen should make him a certainty in the playing XI in the two Tests against New Zealand later this month.
However, not many know about the agony Rahane went through waiting for his turn to make the XI. Ask Rahane’s personal coach, former India batsman Pravin Amre, who also had to wait for a long time before making his Test debut.
“It was a very difficult phase for Rahane. The waiting period tests your patience to the core. I have also experienced it and it is certainly frustrating for any sportsperson. For Rahane, the wait was surely longer than me. There was a phase when he started doubting his ability (to play Test cricket).
“But we consulted a few professionals… did some counselling. We had to make him believe that he belongs to the highest level of cricket… he would succeed in Test cricket. We had to ensure he did not loose his confidence,” Amre told MiDDAY.
Rahane got his maiden Test call-up for the 2011-12 Australia tour. He warmed the bench even as Team India was whitewashed. Then came New Zealand and one expected Rahane to make the cut with VVS Laxman retiring just before the series.
The long wait
England were next to tour India for a four-Test series. But a similar fate awaited Rahane. He watched the proceedings from the dressing room even as Yuvraj Singh and Ravindra Jadeja were drafted into the XI.
Australia were India’s next opponent and Rahane was still a passenger in the team. He did not find a place for the first three Tests. The big day finally arrived for Rahane when he gothis Test cap in the fourth and final Test in Delhi in March 2012.
Rahane was again confined to the bench for the two Tests against the West Indies which was the legendary Sachin Tendulkar’s farewell series. The recently-concluded South Africatour was the first full series that Rahane got a look-in in the XI.
Amre, who is the only Indian to score a Test century at Kingsmead, Durban, was disappointed to see Rahane miss his ton by four runs there. “It would have been a pleasure to share my record with someone of Rahane’s calibre. He should have got that hundred. It would have been extra special. Nonetheless, I was very happy with the way he batted on the whole tour,” said Amre.
“This tour has showed he is hungry for success and he belongs to international cricket. Critics had doubted his temperament and maturity to play at the highest level and he has proved them wrong. The work is still half done. He has to get a hundred and keep getting them consistently. This (SA tour) was just a glimpse of the talent he possesses,” the former Mumbai coach added.
Rahane practiced with Amre at the BKC ground a month in advance to prepare for the SA tour. “It was about capitalising on his scoring opportunities. You tend to get a bit defensive in South Africa. Also, it was important to learn playing shots square off the wicket,” concluded Amre.
The number of matches Ajinkya Rahane had to warm the bench for before his Test debut