India v Australia, 3rd ODI, Indore September 23, 2017

Rahane working on mindset after chat with Tendulkar

Ajinkya Rahane was unaffected by the loss of an early wicket © AFP

Soon after returning from the tour of Sri Lanka, Ajinkya Rahane visited the nets at the Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai to train, where he ran into Sachin Tendulkar.

"Paaji told me, 'back your game. Opportunities will come sometimes, and they will be missing sometimes. It is not in your hand. You need to work on mindset - because the better the mindset, the better you do on the field.'"

That advice is fairly pertinent to Rahane because he has been designated the back-up opener in the squad. He spent the entire Champions Trophy carrying drinks, but then, on India's next 50-over assignment, he made 336 runs from five innings and was named Man of the Series. In Sri Lanka, he was relegated, again.

In such cases, a batsman can be moved to making drastic changes to his game, but in that conversation Rahane had with Tendulkar, he was told there was only one thing he needed to concentrate on. "He did not tell me anything much about the technical stuff. He mostly spoke about the mental preparation, about aggression."

Then there was some opposition research.

"He has played so much against Australia, so he spoke to me about how to prepare mentally, and pointed out the lengths they generally bowl. It was great having the chat with him, and it gave me a lot of confidence speaking to him."

Rahane made his 23rd fifty-plus score in 79 innings, in Kolkata and at the start of that innings, he was set a very strong offside field. Only there was no one at cover. Australia were hunting for the outside edge and they wanted the Indian batsmen to drive away from their bodies.

So Rahane negated the risk by making sure he only punched the ball, without too much of a follow through, and his timing took care of the rest. He kept driving through the covers, collecting five fours, until Australia had to plug that gap in the ninth over and look elsewhere for wickets.

"I just tried to make sure I didn't repeat the mistakes I made in the first match [when he was caught behind for 5 chasing a wide ball], and after the first couple overs, the aim was to put pressure on Australia, on how to counter-attack. When Rohit got out and Kohli and I were batting, [the] plan was to make sure we even hit their good balls and counter-attack so we can build pressure on them."

Though India wasn't able to captalise on an excellent start from their top order, the eventual margin of victory, 50 runs, and the way the bowlers rallied to produce it pleased Rahane.

"You can't expect to score 300 or 350 every time you bat. There will be times when you score 240 or 280 but it's more important when you defend such totals as well," he said. "This team has the quality to defend any total. The bowling attack is so good that the team is confident that we can defend and win matches despite not putting up huge totals. We are confident that we can restrict any opposition. When a couple of batsmen get set and score big, you tend to get enough totals. But when you end up winning matches even after scoring 240-ish totals, you establish yourself as the No. 1 team."

India believe they have another asset as well - a roster full of people who aren't worried if their roles aren't perfectly defined.

"The best thing about this side is that the guys can all bat anywhere - so that flexibility is there," Rahane said. "I have batted at No. 3, 4, and 5. It is important how you deal with the situation. Adjustment is completely in the mind. Technically, you can adapt anywhere, but it's the mindset that matters."

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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