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The Rediff Cricket Interview / Ajinkya Rahane
'The IPL is a stepping-stone for youngsters like me'
April 16, 2009
A whopping 1089 runs from 10 matches (@ 68.05), including four hundreds and five half-centuries. That's Ajinkya Rahane's stats for you in the 2008-09 Ranji season as Mumbai won the crown for a record 38th time.
If that was not enough, he went on to accumulate 295 runs from two matches (@ 73.75) for West Zone in the triumphant Duleep Trophy campaign.
Having consolidated his position on the domestic stage, Rahane is now looking forward to the second edition of the Indian Premier League [Images], to be held in South Africa [Images], to show the world what he is capable of.
In an exclusive interview with Special Correspondent Bikash Mohapatra, Rahane talks about his recent successes, the recent trip to the Rainbow Nation, interactions with Jonty Rhodes [Images] and Shaun Pollock [Images] and, of course, his idol Sachin Tendulkar [Images]. Excerpts.
How was the recent trip to South Africa?
It was a great experience. Our primary focus was on fitness and fielding. We got to play a few practice matches though and that helped us understand the nature of the wickets.
We played three matches in six days on pitches that had bounce, and where the ball came quicker to the bat vis-�-vis the Indian wickets.
Now that the IPL is going to take place there (in SA), do you think Mumbai Indians [Images] has an advantage over the other teams?
We had gone to South Africa for a camp and, luckily, the IPL is going to take place there. Our players are now aware what kind of conditions to except during the IPL and how the wickets will behave. And whatever practice we get in the days to come will only be a bonus.
Obviously, we are going to miss the Indian wickets, but at the same time it will be challenge for us to go there and give it our best shot.
We need to accept that challenge. In any case, if we have to win we need to adapt to any condition, no matter how different or difficult it is. We got to know the wickets there and that should definitely benefit us in the IPL.
Jonty Rhodes is the new fielding coach of Mumbai Indians. Tell us about your experiences with him during your SA trip?
It is our good fortune that we had a fielding coach like Jonty at our disposal. We got to learn a lot from him.
Jonty focused mainly on the basics, like throwing techniques et al. Things like the angle at which the ball is thrown might be too trivial, and we may not even realize that, but they have a bearing on the result.
He said the more you enjoy the fielding and the better you handle the pressure, the better a fielder you become.
And Shaun Pollock?
He is very helpful. Last year he was in the team as a player but still helped us a lot; this year it hasn't been any different. He always explains to us our respective roles in the team and how we must improve our contributions to the team.
How does Mumbai Indians plan to approach the second season of the IPL?
Last year's mistakes won't be repeated. It's a challenge and we need to accept it and rise up to it. The IPL is a stepping-stone for youngsters like me because the whole world is watching. Even one good knock can make a huge difference.
Your take on Praveen Amre's appointment as assistant coach of Mumbi Indians?
It is a good thing. I've been working with him for the last two years. He knows our strengths and weaknesses and knows how to work towards improving them.
Last season you managed to play in just one match. Any memories?
I had opened with Sanath (Jayasuriya). Obviously, he being such a huge player, the only thing that went about in my mind was what was I going to talk with him. It was a great opportunity to bat with him, but what do you discuss with him in between overs. But he gave me a lot of confidence and my nervousness eased out.
How much an influence has Sachin Tendulkar been on players like you?
We always tend to learn a lot from him. In fact, whenever we get an opportunity to meet him we try and utilize it to learn something novel. Last year he advised me on how to play in the T20 version; how to improvise on my shots.
And this year also I stand to benefit because he has been to South Africa many times and I can draw from his wealth of experience.
This season has been quite productive for you (in terms of runs). What, according to you, worked in your favour?
I had worked on my batting technique in the off-season and during the course of the season I tried to stay focused. The only thing I had in the mind was to contribute significantly for Mumbai this time.
The previous season wasn't as good and we wanted to forget that by putting up a good show this season.
I want to continue the good run in the IPL. I am working on my bowling because I realise that in T20 all-round abilities will be an added advantage.
You either open the innings or come in at No 3. How different or difficult is it to open the innings in a T20 game?
Opening the batting is definitely tough in such a short format. But there's a positive side to it as well. If we manage to find our range of shots we can get much more runs, as compared to other versions, and give our team a very solid start.
You have been more successful with the traditional format of the game vis-�-vis the Twenty20 [Images] version. How does the latter differ from the former?
Adaptation is the key to a T20 game because there is very less time to think. So how you adjust goes a long way in determining your performance. I would also like to add that in such a format, improvisation is the need of the hour.
What is your focus for the rest of the year?
The focus at present is only on the IPL. After that is over we will see.
Photographs: Harish Kotian