Staying in the moment
In a little over one month, Ajinkya Rahane has played for Rest of India against Rajasthan in Bangalore, India A in the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy in Bangalore, Mumbai Under-25 in Indore, Indian Oil in the Times Shield, and for India A against the England XI at Brabourne Stadium. Fewer than 24 hours after that tour game, he will be representing Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy. A week or so later he could be anywhere: with India in Ahmedabad, or with Mumbai in Rajasthan.
In a little over a year, Rahane has opened in England as an injury fill-in, he has been part of the Test squad when West Indies came to India, he has been to Australia as a reserve batsman both in the opening slot and middle order. He has remodelled his game a little to fit the T20 generation and has impressed as a batsman in that format, only to lose his T20 spot to a returning Yuvraj Singh. Having spent two series in the queue for a Test call-up, he has seen, when places finally opened up in the Test XI, that place go to Suresh Raina.
That Test cap remains elusive, with Yuvraj now putting in a good performance in the tour game, both with bat and ball, and even threatening to take his place in the squad. More than any other player in India, this season is important for Rahane. And confusing, for he doesn't know where he will be playing, or his batting position. There is just too much happening to process. At such times you can feel frustrated, confused, exhausted, think too far into the future, or brood too much over the past.
You ask Rahane what emotions he is going through days before the season gets into full swing, and he seems calm. He says this is the time he needs to stay in the moment. "I don't know what will happen tomorrow," he says. "I always think, 'let me control what I can control.' Always think about the current match, and not too far ahead. If I look after the present, the future will sort itself out."
What did he do in Australia where he spent close to two months without getting a game? "Whether I get a chance in the playing XI or not, it is not in my hands. Still, last year was important. I got to learn a lot. For close to two months I went into net sessions with some of the greats. You get to learn a lot there.
"There are so many players with you who have toured Australia many times. I spoke to them, how they adjust to different conditions, how they prepare for different matches. Everywhere you get different conditions, so how they get used to those conditions. I followed the careers of Sachin and Rahul as a child, so it was great to be with them."
You can put a positive spin on it, but nobody wants to spend close to a year with the team without getting to play and then losing that slot to somebody else. That can be frustrating. "There is no point getting frustrated," says Rahane. "I still have those net sessions where I can improve a lot. I didn't do great on the A tour in the West Indies, but I can still say I learned a lot from my first trip there."
You tell Rahane that he comes across as someone who gets satisfied easily. On the contrary, he says, "I don't go with targets. I don't get satisfied. I try to stay balanced. Doesn't matter if I have done well or not. Stay balanced in both situations."
Rahane is aware he could be out of the Test squad come the selection meeting on November 5. What would he rather? Continue in the 15 hoping for that place in the XI? Or if, by last year's indication he doesn't get that spot, play the Ranji Trophy and score runs to put pressure on the selectors and the captain? "I am not thinking about all that," he says. "I have to focus on this moment and the next match, doesn't matter where I am playing or who I am playing for."
Starting November 2, watch out for the Ranji Trophy Live blog on match days
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo