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The Rediff Cricket Interview / Ajinkya Rahane
'Getting into the national team is a long-term goal'
April 21, 2008
It was his maiden first-class season and Ajinkya Rahane shone bright.
If records speak volumes, then let's just go through the 19-year-old Mumbaikar's record in the past year-and-a-half.
In early 2007, he had an impressive Under-19 tour of New Zealand [Images], where he scored 358 at an average of 71.6 in Tests and 144 at 48 in ODIs. A 143 against Karachi Urban in the Mohammad Nissar Trophy -- on first-class debut -- was followed by scores of 52 and 27 in the Irani Trophy.
A slow start to his maiden Ranji season -- he had scores of 0, 22 not out, 4, 28, 8 and 20 in his first six innings -- was rectified with a strong finish that saw him stack up 487 runs in seven matches (12 innings), at an impressive average of 48.70.
In the Duleep Trophy that followed, he was even more impressive, scoring a tournament high 451 runs in three matches @ 75.16. Another 339 runs @ 67.80 in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, including a record-breaking 187 against Maharashtra, ensured more glory for the youngster. Now he has the opportunity to rub shoulders with the likes of Sachin Tendulkar [Images] and Harbhajan Singh [Images] as he represents Mumbai Indians in the inaugural Indian Premier League.
In a tete-a-tete with Special Correspondent Bikash Mohapatra, Rahane talks about the season gone by, his aspirations and, obviously, the IPL.
You are now part of the Indian Premier League. How do you look at it?
It will give me a good amount of experience, especially with so many international players around.
Did you imagine you would be playing for Mumbai Indians?
I hadn't thought of it. But somewhere in the back of my mind I did want to play for the Mumbai Indians. After all, it is my home team. But now that I'm actually playing for them, I'll try and perform well for my team. I will definitely give my best effort. My main goal will be to maintain a certain level of consistency.
Your thoughts on your team�
Ours is a very balanced team, at least on paper. But, I think, batting will be our main strength.
Which of the teams will be your biggest rivals in the tournament?
Actually, all the teams are quite good.
Please stop being so diplomatic�
Kolkata Knight Riders and Kings 11 (the Mohali team), I think, are two of the best teams. They have a lot of better players, like Ricky Ponting [Images] (Kolkata) and Brett Lee [Images] (Mohali) in their ranks.
You played mostly in Tests and a few one-dayers this season. How difficult will it be for you to adjust to this format?
To attack is my natural game, so I don't think it would be difficult for me to adjust to the Twenty20 format. I would like to play as I perceive it in my mind. But I do think that I need to be a bit more patient.
Are you nervous?
I am not that nervous. I have played Twenty20 cricket at the domestic level along with Sachin (Tendulkar), who is my captain in Mumbai Indians.
Tell us about your interaction with Sachin?
I have had a good experience so far. He (Sachin) gives you a lot of confidence. He has advised me to play my natural game and not think much.
How do you assess your season thus far?
Most of the scores I have made this season have been huge. I have had some big, big hundreds, like the 172 against the England [Images] Lions in the Duleep Trophy at Vadodara, and the 187 against Maharashtra in the Ranji one-dayers.
That 187 was a record� (Interrupts)
I was not playing for the record. I only focused on playing my natural game and played each ball as per merit. The record just happened. On second thoughts, actually, a little nervousness did creep in as I neared the score. But that is natural.
Mumbai won the Ranji Trophy last season but couldn't even make it to the semi-finals this time. How do you explain the debacle?
It is not that we (Mumbai) didn't want to or didn't try to do well. Nothing exactly was wrong. We had good players who were playing well and it is not that we kept on losing matches. We played well, but couldn't win more matches. But, sometimes, it happens.
You were one of the most consistent performers though. Can you list your best and worst moments in your maiden Ranji season?
There were three innings in particular that I enjoyed the most: the 91 against Rajasthan, in a match that we won by just two runs; the 72 I scored against Maharashtra, and, finally, the 149 in the last league match against Saurashtra.
Similarly, I thought my batting was not up to the mark against Himachal Pradesh. That match, in particular, was very disappointing.
Making it to the national team must be the next item on the agenda�
I think I was quite good considering this was my first season. If I perform on a consistent basis, I will definitely make the national team sooner or later. But I'm not thinking about selection at the moment. I just want to score as much runs as possible. And getting into the national team is definitely a long-term goal.
Coming back to T20, it seems to be affecting ODI and even Test cricket. India got all out for only 76 in exactly 20 overs in Motera. Your thoughts�
I don't think Twenty20 will affect one-day or Test cricket in any way. And I don't want to indulge myself into any comparisons.
You are again being diplomatic�
Okay, I would definitely like to play Test and 50-50 (one-day cricket), strictly in that order. You may as well add Twenty20 into that list. (smiles)
Why have you put Test cricket on top of your priority list then?
There is a certain thrill in getting a big Test score that is unmatched.
Photographs: Bikash Mohapatra