Ajinkya Rahane has been going through a rough patch recently, with hardly any runs in the Sri Lanka Test series. Now he will have the tough task of supporting the Indian middle order on the tough tour of South Africa.
Times of India caught up with the stylish Mumbai batsman and here are the excerpts from the interview.
About his rough patch, “My mind and heart tells me 2018 is going to be my year and I'm really confident about it. I've always maintained that be it cricket or life, I always prefer to remain in the present. So, while it's going to be a year of many challenges, the focus right now is on South Africa. Doing well there is right on the top of my mind. As far as the big picture is concerned, every day is a different day, every game is a different game.”
He continued, “When you talk about Test cricket, it's all about preparation. Take this tour of South Africa for example. Their home, their attack, their conditions - all of that have to be tackled, runs have to be put on board, 20 wickets have to be taken to win a game. That's what we have to go there and achieve, every day, every match throughout the series. But until then, we've got to prepare.”
Talking about the conditions there, he said,” We have to focus on the job at hand and just think like we're playing in India. In fact, this is how we've been approaching the tour - focusing on the series like this is going to be our home game. The amount of travel an international cricketer does these days, the lines are fast blurring between what is home and what is away. The important thing here is to respect the opposition. We respect South Africa but at the same time, we realize, if we want to win there, the first thing we need to do is express ourselves. It is important to play with the same kind of freedom that we've played over the last two years.”
About learning lessons from such bad phases, Rahane said, “This phase has actually taught me a lot, on and off the field on how I need to go about with my cricket from here, how to remain calm when things don't go your way. What I'm trying to do right now is to remind myself of the processes I followed when things were going my way and keep repeating them. Just make it a routine thing.”
He thanked the team and captain Virat Kohli for his continued support, “Especially Virat, the coaches, the selectors ... As a player, I can't ask for more. When the whole team is behind you, you're never short on motivation. Runs will come, I don't need to worry about it too much.”
Talking about the team preparations for the series, Rahane disclosed, “We know it better than anyone else that SA can't be taken lightly and neither can we afford to be over-confident. But we also know we're capable of winning Test matches anywhere in the world. The question is how we can implement what we understand or what we can potentially achieve. It's a long series and there are many such long series coming up. The challenge is to perform consistently over a period of time.”
Talking about how he prepares for important matches, Rahane said, “A week ago, me and Pravin sir (Amre) started our preparations. I was coming from a poor patch and it was important for me to not keep thinking about it. That's precisely what I discussed with him (Amre). The other day I was just sitting by myself, thinking about what I used to do in such situations, when things didn't go my way. We just created those (match) situations and I got busy playing a game of virtual cricket inside my mind.”
“Talking about the fitness levels in the team, Rahane said, “It's a culture that we've adapted to. We realize there's a world of a difference between becoming the world's No. 1 team and staying there. Those are different levels. To jump from that one level to the other takes a lot more than just being good at your game. You need to be good at multiple levels if you want to remain among the best. Fitness of mind and body matters most. It requires discipline, sacrifice and more.”
Talking about fatigue with playing all three formats throughout the year, he said, “Our aim is to win the 2019 World Cup. If that's what we want to achieve, then we need to consider this: Skill-wise, we're right up there with everyone else and in fact better. If we can reach the kind of fitness levels that raises the bar, then a kind of a machinery begins to fall in place. The mind becomes more focused and you benefit from clarity of thought.”