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Rahane- Not everyone’s cup of Tea

India cannot have 11 Virat Kohlis when it comes to character. Now, what do you define as Kohliesque character? Aggression? Add consistency to that list, you.

Yes. You had to define Rahane, you can easily call him Anti-Kohliesque. He is not aggressive, well, at least from not outside, he rarely shows emotions, he doesn’t swear, he rarely has these angry celebrations. He is calm, knows his routine and loves the old ways.

Talking about the old ways, nobody spent more time on the nets and you got to be something else when Dravid walks up to you and tell you to stop practising. Rahane goes nuts and if you are willing to gift him something, give this guy a bowling machine.

Still, Rahane flunks easily. He is so soft that he doesn’t know to put a high price on his wicket, well most of the days. In other days, he is totally different. He tends to kill the bowlers and make things comfortable for others around. There isn’t a beautiful sight than watching Rahane and Pujara bat together. It reminds me more of Amol Muzumdar and Wasim Jaffer playing together. These two are freaks. They loved the game more than anyone else. They grind. They dig and they score.

Rahane plays for Mumbai, the place that had given a lot of cricketers to the Indian team but his Dombivli didn’t. This place hardly had a ground when Rahane began. When South Mumbai used to play at least four matches a week, Dombivli rarely got one. This means, they would keep grinding, number of hard practices on the nets were more. If this was difficult, try catching a train from Dombivli to South Mumbai or the vice versa on a weekday and to make worse imagine travelling after a day full of practice with all sweaty and with your kit. It takes a different level of mental health and physical health to do so. Maybe, that built what Rahane is today. Nobody messes with his mental health. Again, he doesn’t give it away though.

2013 Durban. India, as expected, collapsed. Dale Steyn was on Steyn mode that day. He was fierce. Great sight, if you are a South African fan and if you are rooting for India, I’m sorry. It was one such day. It was hard for players out there and Steyn was like this storm rattling everyone who came in his way. One man he couldn’t get or rattle was Rahane. Steyn did try everything. He even hit him on his helmet. Rahane was new, batting at 5 on his third Test. He got it all wrong, ducked only to get hit on the helmet. Steyn had a look, aggressive, and went back to bowl. Rahane defended this time.

Minutes later, Steyn came back with almost the same delivery and this time Rahane had an answer. He pulled. The ball went rising to the Deep square boundary.

Ego dominated Steyn this time. He wasn’t looking happy.

In the next over, he had poor delivery and Rahane said thank you by dispatching it to the boundary. Steyn rightly was angry. He was kicking himself for not fighting against Rahane. He knew he was up against someone who is as solid as a rock. Steyn then went back to his basic, hit Rahane once again. Once again a tough blow. Steyn grinned, gestured number two and walked back. Had it was someone else, Steyn would have been into their brains now. This was Rahane. He couldn’t care less. The next three balls had something that you call content. Rahane leaves the next one, blocks the next and checks his shot in the final delivery.

Rahane went on to score an unbeaten 51 in that innings and in the second, he was once again the lone warrior with 96.

Rahane was supposed to fail. He shouldn’t be scoring runs in South Africa. The Indians are not so used to it and it is not something you would do on your third Test. However, that is what Rahane built off. He was not there to throw away another first chance he got to make an impression.

Rahane was into the squad for a long time and did not get a chance for 16 straight games and when he did, he blew up. Siddle had him dance to his tune in the first over. A long shout for LBW following Siddle’s trademark earful, A nervous duck to the bouncer which ended up hitting his helmet. He managed to last for 18 deliveries before throwing his wicket away to Lyon. In the second innings, he felt uncomfortable and nervous, couldn’t take the team through. He made a mockery of himself in front of legends who couldn’t say good things about him.

Rahane was willing to change. He was ready to accept the failure and move on. Despite fighting for a spot with a handful of players, he knew he can still get there if he worked hard. He did. His coach Amre, who literally adopted him, asked him to make a few changes to his backlift and Rahane was courageous enough to do the same. 2013 really did turn fruitful for him.
Nobody visualises cricket shot as Rahane do. He loves to get into the bowler’s mind more often. He loves to take the pressure off the partner by doing things based on his instinct.

2014 it was. A series against Australia where Virat Kohli was not leaving any stones unturned and making the bowlers cry. It was Rahane who was making this easier for his future captain by taking the pressure. He normally does that against the leader of the opponent’s pack.

Johnson was rattling every single visiting team. Add his action too if you are noting things on what makes him fearful. For Rahane, that day, he was visualising something bigger and better. He wanted to play with the heads of Johnson in his own way.

Enter Johnson. He bowls three bouncers which were merely a short-pitched delivery yet aggressive. Australia didn’t change a bit even though that was a series played in memories of Hughes. Still fierce, still ready to kill, Johnson had three bouncers to Rahane who once tried to pull, got three, next was a top edge but safe, the third one he missed.

Here comes the fourth one but this time Rahane was all set. He was ready and knew what he wanted to do. He went with his instinct. He opened up a little and there was a beautiful sound of the ball hitting the middle of the bat and running away to the deep midwicket boundary. One of the best replies you would ever see.

Johnson likes to dominate but this stroke changed so many things. It was like a statement from Rahane, telling that, I’m coming for you mate. Johnson was expecting this but from Kohli. Rahane, who cares?

But there he was, the little genius grinding into Johnson’s head. The next delivery, Rahane once again cleared his leg and opened up. He was bluffing. He wasn’t expecting a short ball but a fuller one. He was ready. There it was. Rahane was right once again, he dismissed the delivered through mid-off. Later, Rahane was taking premeditative yet confident charge. He then had Johnson bowling his way.

Kohli had the best view of the mental battle that was going on between Johnson and Rahane. He was enjoying it while a bit surprised coming from the man who loves to play the other way.

Not many consider him as a great IPL player but it was the same tournament that made him a player today. Despite having the runs in the Ranji Trophy regularly, he wasn’t noticed till it was IPL.

Rahane will always be grateful for Shane Watson for making things happen. It was Watson who spotted him during a match against Australia A and he was the one who called the then-coach Dravid to talk about him.

Dravid has seen Rahane play in the Duleep Trophy before and was double-minded about him and when Watson called and recommended, he went all-in.

Rahane found his home in two places, one was Mumbai, thanks to the backing of Amre and in Royals, thanks to Dravid.

Well, his debut for Mumbai wasn’t ideal though. Amre told Muzumdar to watch out for Rahane who blew up. He was also dropping catches regularly. It took four innings to make Muzumdar believe in him.

Here, it was Dravid who kept backing him and knew what special player he was.

Rahane was never someone who left a memorable mark right from the word go. Literally, in any stage of his career, he had failures only to come back stronger. He would even call his coaches at 2 am on Sundays to ask doubts about the game. Even two days before his marriage, he was out there, batting hard. His obsession for runs, for batting, made him a go-to today. Nobody other than Pujara has evolved so much in Test cricket in India in recent times.

Rahane’s father wasn’t someone who forced him. All he wanted was to see Rahane happy. Rahane found his calling in cricket and didn’t look back. In fact, he saw karate as something that would help him in his fitness. Today, he is one of the fittest players and according to Raina, he is the best fielder in the team.

There is so much in him that we are yet to witness and Rahane is here to stay, win matches for India for at least four to five years to come. Till then, he will be hitting the nets, giving it all in the practice session, scoring runs for India, working hard on his technique, and you sure will see an improved player every time you watch him. Also, he will be doing them all in his own pace, under someone’s shadow, probably, Kohli’s. Because he hates the spotlight and loves to stay anonymous. Something quiet, like his press conference.

Image courtesy: Getty Images

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