England v India, 5th ODI, Headingley September 4, 2014

Ton ends Rahane's sleepless nights

The one-day series was threatening to continue the trend of Ajinkya Rahane not building on his starts, but then he sped towards a maiden hundred which helped ease his concerns

Play 02:32
Ajinkya Rahane relieved after century

In the second ODI of the series, the first essentially, Ajinkya Rahane played a forward-defensive, was beaten, and had dragged his back foot out. He was stumped. He couldn't sleep that night. If you are an Indian batsman, you don't get stumped playing a forward-defensive to gentle offspin. You just don't.

However, in Rahane's case, a bigger concern led to the sleepless night. This was the 13th time out of 16 in a 31-innings career that he had failed to reach 60 after 40. There was no hundred to his name. He had a middling average and a strike-rate. If you looked at his career stats, you wouldn't be able to tell he had been batting really well.

Two ODIs later, though, at Edgbaston, Rahane finally got that hundred to seal a comfortable series win for India. Before the start of the final game, Rahane was a much more relaxed man. A man with no monkey on his back.

"It was really special [getting that hundred]," Rahane said. "After two 40s in the first two ODIs, and the way I got out, I was really hurt. I couldn't sleep after the first game because the way I got out stumped. It was a really silly mistake of mine. I was really determined in the third ODI. Once I crossed the next 10 runs after 40, my natural game took over."

Like many observers, Rahane, too, questioned his focus during the 40s. Even at Trent Bridge, he opened the face of the bat to be caught at the wicket. Again in the 40s. "When you get out softly, somewhere you feel your focus is dropping a bit," Rahane said. "Team-mates also help you, and nudge you into the right direction. All team-mates and the captain supported me. They told me to focus harder during the 40s, to try to play straight, and to concentrate harder."

Rahane reserved special gratitude for Ravi Shastri, the new team director in the wake of the Test debacle. "I was batting well in the first two ODIs, but got out on 45 and 41," Rahane said. "That hurt me a lot because if you are batting so well in good conditions against this attack, if you get a big score it is good for my confidence and team morale. It hurt the team chances too that I was not converting my starts.

"Ravi Shastri was very helpful during this phase. He asked me to continue playing the way I was playing, just asked for a little extra focus between 40 and 50. 'Once you cross 50, your instinct will take over.' My focus in the third ODI was to focus that bit harder once I crossed 40, at least for those 10 next runs. After that I backed my instinct."

Rahane said that during those 40s he began to think too much, which is not ideal. "I knew deep inside that a big innings was around the corner," Rahane said. "When you are batting well, you don't think too much. All I had to think about was how do I focus that bit extra between 40 and 50, and how I prepare for that phase before the match. It was just a mind game."

Rahane approached the 40s at Edgbaston as many do their 90s: to just get it out of the way as soon as possible. "When I was on 44, my mindest was that if I see a ball I can hit I will try to complete the half-century with a six," Rahane said. "So when I was on 47, with Moeen Ali bowling and about six fielders in the circle, I thought if the ball is in my zone, I will hit a six. So the square leg was up, and I got a chance to play that sweep that went for six. My mindset was to remain positive. I didn't think of small steps that would take me to the half-century, I wanted to remain positive."

That Rahane's first ODI century has come as an opener creates interesting possibilities. For starters, Shikhar Dhawan said after Edgbaston that Rahane's intent helped him settled down into his first big innings of the tour. Rahane spoke about that 183-run partnership, which was more than India's opening stands in the last three Tests put together.

"When we went out to bat, the ball seamed around for the first five-six overs," Rahane said. "I told him I will remain positive, and if I see a ball I can hit I will go after it. In that over itself [the fifth of India's innings] I hit four boundaries, and the momentum switched towards us. Then Shikhar asked me to continue playing that way. I backed my game, and that allowed Shikhar some time to settle in. Once he got in, it was a joy to watch him bat from the non-striker's end."

Rahane was not India's first-choice opener for this ODI series. It was Rohit Sharma, who got injured during the Cardiff match. MS Dhoni asked Rahane if he was up to opening the innings, and Rahane accepted the opportunity and the challenge gladly. "When you captain shows that confidence in you, you also must be prepared mentally to take that challenge on."

However, that now leaves the changing room with an interesting debate when Rohit does come back from his injury. Rahane wouldn't get into a discussion into it at the moment. "I haven't thought of it yet," he said. "We always want to play for each other. We want to enjoy each other's performance. A good team is one that plays for each other."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • venkat on September 6, 2014, 5:27 GMT

    @mfislam i dont think u see cricket or follow cricket at all and just comments what ever u want to and the defintion of technique is not hitting the ball hard and out of the ground or defend all the balls bowled to you its maintaining balance when hit any shot aggresive and defensive and rahane's balance is perfect when ever he hits any shot and he dont hav class then see his 51*,96,118,103,54,52* all in overseas then u will find what is class and technique and balance and rahane scored most of the runs in the against james anderson who had virat kohli seven times and u need technique to play against anderson and rahane has the best and dont just comment rubbish to make people laugh

  • venkat on September 6, 2014, 5:17 GMT

    @mfislam what a joke about rahane's technique and i fell of the chair watching ur comments what a joke 96 on durban where where indian team scored 230 and the secong best score is 31 against dale steyn,morkel,philander and in first innings 51 notout and lords hundred one of the greenest pitches ever and he scored only 2 runs towards 3rd man u cant score like that if u dont hav right technique and technique is bad when u get bowled,lbw,or caught behind frequently and rahane is the last person in the indian team to get out in those fashion

  • venkat on September 6, 2014, 5:08 GMT

    u don't need to be a traditional indian batsmen to score runs for india u can do in any way u want and u can look as ugly as possible to score runs and its a real joke that rahane is overrated he abg 64 in domestic cricket and abg 60 in emerging players tournment that india won and he was the only young lad who scored hundreds in all india A tours he went overseas and i think some comment just flukely without seeing matches and just watching scores after match and if u are virat fan say virat has class but dont say rahane has no class because its a joke and i want to ask one thing who is the leading runscorer in the series and rahane is the one of the classiest batsmen india have ever produced

  • M F on September 5, 2014, 20:03 GMT

    overrated, I never feel him like a typical Indian batsman. if it is runs that matters than hes okay, hes getting runs these days. most ugliest/ peculiar Indian top order batsmen I have ever seen, even the "lost" batsmen Md. Kaif had way better technique than Rahane, I always wonder where the Kaif lost? It was a dream team Sourav, Shewag, Sachin, Dravid, Kaif, Yubraj... the purest top order. look at the present line up , its funny, except Virat I dont find any class in 't.

    traditionally it is Indian batting line up brought all the victory for thm in the past while they have the most funniest bowling line up. they are lucky they are getting some swings with the ball these days, if otherwise what really they could do with the present batting line up?

  • Dummy4 on September 5, 2014, 9:55 GMT

    Move away the Pujaras and the Kohlis. Rahane is India's best batsman.

  • Android on September 5, 2014, 9:45 GMT

    rahane presently is a top class opener for India , batsman whose calibre looks higher than Sachin at times. .He has a silky touch in mastering strokes, better be an opener in odis and in tests too instead of 4 position..

  • Dummy4 on September 5, 2014, 9:28 GMT

    I feel Rahane should continue at no.5 at tests... Rohit should bat at no.6 in tests... but in ODIs, rahane is pretty much the quintessential opener, who has a neat technique against the new ball and who can anchor the innings with great efficiency... Rohit is actually sluggish against the new ball especially if some world class swing bowler is operating... he is more comfortable in the middle overs after which he has a wide range of strokes to accelerate... ODI XI for the WC - Dhawan, Rahane, Kohli, Rohit, Dhoni, Ashwin, Jadeja/Aaron, Bhuvi, Shami and Yadav...

  • Android on September 5, 2014, 9:19 GMT

    Sachin taken 79 innings to score maiden odi century. rahane 46 innings. both are technically good. both have habit of getting out in bad balls. ;). lol

  • Naresh on September 5, 2014, 6:50 GMT

    Lets face the fact - Rahane would make a great TEST opener, Rohit should be persisted with in ODI's as opener. Patience and technique are required at the test level. With Vijay, Rahane should open. Rohit is a better limited overs player - one should not forget the 200 he made against Oz. Right now Rahane is the best we have - the coaches need to work on KOHLI. At the moment we have - Rayudu, Naman Ohja, Tiwari and Sanju Samson - these guys should be in the mix. While we speak of the batting its the bowling that needs loads of attention.

  • venkat on September 5, 2014, 5:11 GMT

    i still cant understand why rohit cant establish in indian 11

  • No featured comments at the moment.