Dravid backs 'terrific' Rahane at No. 5
Rahul Dravid has said that Ajinkya Rahane should bat at the No. 5 position for India in Tests. Rahane came in at No. 5 during the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle, but swapped positions with No. 3 Rohit Sharma for the remaining two Tests. Rohit failed up the order in Galle, but made half-centuries in the next two Tests at No. 5.
"He is a good No.5," Dravid told Aakash Chopra as part of a panel discussion along with Rahane at the launch of Chopra's book The Insider by ESPNcricinfo and HarperCollins. "He is going to make a really good 4 or 5. I am not saying he will not be able to do a 3, but the kind of success he has had at 5, his ability to be able to play with the tail, and the range of shots tell me he is going to be a good No 5.
"It will also give him the opportunity to play the second new ball. He will have to play at whatever position he is required to for the team and that will mean sometime batting at 3 as was required in the Test (in Sri Lanka)."
When asked about the similarities and differences between him and Rahane, Dravid said Rahane's development had been "terrific", especially considering the frustrating period of several months he had to spend on the India bench. Starting from the tour of South Africa in late 2013, Rahane has become one of the most consistent run-getters for India. He has made centuries in Australia, England, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, to go with 96 in South Africa and 98 in Bangladesh.
"He is a different generation cricketer," Dravid said. "He does play a lot more shots than me. He scores at a quicker rate than I did. I am sure he entertains people a bit more than I did. What I really like about him is that he has had to work very hard to get into the Indian side. In a sense it has been similar to someone like me. I spent five years, 55-60 first-class games, 17-18 first-class hundreds to get into the India side. That is similar to him. He averages 60 in first-class cricket to get into the side.
"Maybe he was not perceived to be as flashy as other people. Maybe he did not look as good as other people did. But the results are there to see. If you look at the last year and a half there are so many overseas tours India has played. Ajinkya has probably been India's best batsman with runs and hundreds in probably every country he has played in.
"That has been terrific for me to see how he has grown. The fact that he has kept his patience. It would not have been easy. When you see people racing ahead of you with not maybe the same (number of) first-class runs as you, suddenly getting more opportunities, I am sure that would not have been easy for him. It needs mental strength and courage to do that. For me the most pleasing fact is he has come out on the other side, the fact that has happened tells me there is the potential for a long and successful career."
Rahane also impressed with his slip catching in Sri Lanka, taking several sharp ones off the spinners on way to breaking the world record for most catches in a Test, in Galle. He said that temperament was the most important thing when it came to standing in the slips. "During Tests sometimes no ball will come for 50-60 overs and then suddenly a catch will come and you have to grab it," Rahane said.
"I feel lucky to have played with one of the world's great slip catchers (Dravid). At (Rajasthan) Royals we had a discussion about catching in general. He said my focus used to be to stay calm, switch on and off, try and be focussed as long as you can. I told our fielding coach I will take 50-100 catches every session. That helped a lot. The most challenging thing was to stay calm and composed between the overs and balls."
Dravid said that while slip-catching technique could be taught, the kind of temperament Rahane had displayed was natural: "I have seen guys who are brilliant catchers in practice," Dravid said.
"That is not what Test catching is about. It is about the ability to concentrate on and off, the ability to stay relaxed in a pressure situation, when the edge comes to you to keep your hands soft and relaxed. Some of the catching we saw in the India-Sri Lanka series was exceptional. The one Rahane took going to his left off Sangakkara (Watch the catch, not available in Sri Lanka and Canada), you hardly have a second to react."
Abhishek Purohit is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo