New Zealand v India, 2nd Test, Wellington, 2nd day February 15, 2014

Rahane shows his X-factor

When he first played for India, Ajinkya Rahane's shy demeanor left many wondering if he had the extra edge in personality that separates top-class international players from the rest. He has now dispelled those doubts

As Ajinkya Rahane sat down to address the end-of-day press conference after scoring his maiden Test century, a senior journalist, who has known him for years, walked up. He told Rahane he was going to ask the centurion a question in Marathi, Rahane's mother tongue. Rahane, to put it mildly, isn't the most eloquent man when he speaks English or Hindi, and the journalist told him he'd better give him a decent answer in Marathi. Rahane grinned sheepishly and nodded like a dutiful schoolboy.

He is that sort of man, the sort who will give you a hurt look if you politely turn down his offer of tea at his house, the sort who will apologise if he couldn't pick up your call. "So sorry, but I was out with family."

How, you wondered, would this almost meek boy survive in this team of superstars and superstar-size egos, when he first came into the side.

He had a mountain of first-class runs backing him, of course, but did he have what goes around by the queer name of X-factor? Did he have that extra edge in his game and personality that separates top-class international players from the rest? Was he merely humble, or was he unable to assert himself, unable to absorb real pressure? After his first two Test tours to South Africa and New Zealand, we can safely conclude it must be the former. Underneath that seemingly soft exterior lurks a solid Test batsman, and he was on display at the Basin Reserve.

Rahane walked in at 165 for 5 and left at 423 for 9. He didn't hunt down the opposition with the magnetic force of Virat Kohli. He didn't leave you marveling at his style and the beauty of his strokes like Rohit Sharma. He didn't make you feel the intensity of the effort he was putting in like Cheteshwar Pujara. He made a pretty cultured century under pressure, but he did it so unobtrusively you were actually shocked to look at the scoreboard once and find he was already on 90.

And how expertly he had got there. His judgment of his off stump was superb. Anything not too wide or too close was left, barring a couple of edges that fortunately went through gaps in the cordon. A few others were played softly enough to not carry. The front-foot drives, body leaning into the stroke, were of a man eager to score and sure of his execution. The back-foot punches, following from where he left off in South Africa, showed his ability to get on top of the considerable bounce and still hit boundaries, a quality not many batsmen possess.

He had had a clear plan and was determined to stick to it whatever the temptation. "I was focusing on getting them to bowl to my strength," Rahane said. "That plan was successful. When they were bowling outside off, my plan was to keep leaving. Even if they bowl there all day, I will leave all day. Finally they had to bowl to my plan. They needed wickets dearly."

The wickets were going down at the other end, though. Rahane was still on 90 when Zaheer Khan joined him, and promptly swished his second ball for four. Not too long ago, Rahane had almost been in tears when he was last out for 96 in Durban. "I know how crucial four runs are now, because hundred is a hundred. When you get out on 96, it comes in fifties," the Mumbai batsman in him explained.

Four dots next over. Fifth ball, he walked out and turned through midwicket. Three, if there was no Zaheer. Only two were trotted. Next ball sprayed too wide outside off to prevent him from taking the single. Called wide. Last ball he tried to turn to midwicket again.

That brought a fortuitous edge over the cordon for four. This was to be the day.

That precious hundred came with a pulled boundary. It had taken more than 5500 first-class runs and 20 first-class hundreds. It had taken years on the bench, years spent watching your competitors get there before him, get there many times. Did he feel frustrated? Did he fret about when his chance would come? His reply, that they were his "seniors", was representative of the man.

"This thought never came to my mind," he said. "Rohit and Virat are senior to me. When I was not playing I was learning from them as well. What improvements they have made to their game, what kind of shots they play and how they play in different situations. Definitely I learned a lot. I never thought that they have got hundreds and I have not got an opportunity."

As representative was the muted celebration. He looked as if he felt he would antagonise the world if he displayed a shred more emotion than the low limit he had set. A few of his friends were watching from the wooden benches at the Basin, and they had set no such limits.

They wept openly, and happily. And for once, you could say with conviction that it couldn't have happened to a nicer man.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • venkatesh on February 17, 2014, 7:54 GMT

    seeing rahane and kohli together while building a patnership its like don bradman and viv richards play in an innings together

  • Dummy4 on February 16, 2014, 0:14 GMT

    Love this guy bat, the sweet timing. In SA when Dale Styne was breathing fire, he kept driving straight. Should come ahead of Rohit. Rohit would want to play his shots and is more suited to play with tailenders.

  • abdul mannan on February 15, 2014, 23:16 GMT

    Nicely written. The author understood Rahane's character perfectly when he talks about his humility. Rahane showed that he is a very humble man when he did not let his emotions get better of him as soon as he had hit the ball towards the boundry to cross hundred. We would have still loved him if he had jumped in the air and gesticulated towards the dressing room, but no such expressions from him means that he carries a very mature and sober head on his slender shoulders. His technique is like Dravid's. This is surely a first of the many hundreds from this cricketer in the future.Good luck Mr. COOL, that is my nick name for Ajinkya.

  • Baskar on February 15, 2014, 23:10 GMT

    The world of cricket needs more Rahanes -- ones who let their cricket do the talking.

  • Dummy4 on February 15, 2014, 21:45 GMT

    First it was Shikhar Dhawan and now Ajinkya Rahane, these are great finds for Indian team! Rahane resembled a lot like his role model Rahul Dravid in the way he played yesterday. Great technique and control the way he plays his shots, you feel more secure as a fan when he is out there! A feeling which is hard to associate with other players like Rohit Sharma. Has he finally delivered the innings thats going to see India register their first away win in 3 years??

  • Amit on February 15, 2014, 21:33 GMT

    Rahane is a good number 5 ...need to drop dead weight Tendulkar wanna be from the team. Vijay, Dhawan, Pujara Kohli, Rhane and Dhoni to follow there is no need for the sixth batsman. Even Bapu in the lower order can bat as well.

  • Mudassar on February 15, 2014, 18:55 GMT

    There are two Mumbai lads in this Indian test side, Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane. I still feel Rahane should be a regular in the test format ahead of Rohit because he has the hunger and passion. Rohit Sharma can't be given a longer rope and if he fails more often than not. He should be replaced with either Rayudu, Manoj Tiwari, Lokesh Rahul, Kedhar Jadhav or Karun Nair. We have a lot of guys with potential in the domestic circuit. I personally feel Rohit Sharma is wasting his talent because even in the first innings here, his dismissal was due to a rubbish shot.

  • Dummy4 on February 15, 2014, 18:53 GMT

    It was definitely a fabulous innings from Rahane and which India needed the most at this time of the match. Abhishek Purohit has not mentioned the way Dhoni made life easier for Rahane by taking on the NZ attack in his calculated way. Dhoni must have been watching Kohli struggle from the pavilion and see what McCullum was trying to do- deny India scoring by bowling wide of stumps ( Negative tactics ) and at the same time consuming those 20 odd overs without conceding runs till they could get the new Ball. Dhoni came in a changed that in one single over stamping his authority over Wagner with 4X 4s in an over and when the new ball was taken he was well settled to destroy any idea McCullum had of taking any wickets and in the process made it easier for Rahane to score without being noticed as NZ were concentrating more on Dhoni than Rahane ! Gr8 Planner MS Dhoni and hats off to you and Rahane !

  • janardhanareddy on February 15, 2014, 18:16 GMT

    I think Rahane is our new Dravid. i expected rahane to be there in indian team two years earlier..Great going rahane..keep it up.

  • Android on February 15, 2014, 17:14 GMT

    if these batsman continue to bat the way they have been. We are soon going to witness superstars of the new era or one could say post sachin era of the indian cricket when it comes to test format. Vijay, pujara, dhawan, kohli, and rahanae along with indian captain backing them up at no. 7. Still doubtful about Rohit sharma though. India will soon start winning test matches and india soon won't have to worry about who will fill the shoes of dravid, ganguly, sachin and laxman. But what worries me though is the bowling. Shami has been doing good but not good enough. Sharma has just started to gain confidence and hope he keeps bowling the way he has on this tour. zaheer's time is up. Somebody needs to take his place, could be pandey or anybody.

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