<
>

'Struggling' Rahane passes short-ball test

Ajinkya Rahane loves to hook. He hooked Mitchell Johnson to oblivion in Melbourne in 2014. He is one of the Indian batsmen who likes pace and bounce more than the lack of it. In India, though, pace and bounce are not always true.

He was hit on the arm guard and the helmet. His ramp wouldn't connect and he top-edged his hooks. Rahane never looked at ease facing the short ball. Yet he scored 188 after coming in at 100 for 3, adding India's highest fourth-wicket partnership with Virat Kohli.

"This hundred is really special because the way I batted yesterday," Rahane said "I took my time, and today I dominated. I'm glad to have handled that spell yesterday when they were bowling short balls. Even this morning [against the short ball], I think the attitude was important. I will rate this hundred right at the top.

"When you struggle it is important how much you enjoy that struggle," Rahane said. "You won't always have it your way. What is important is to stay at the wicket, stay not out, even if it means you are hit on the helmet, beaten or if you don't look good. As a batsman, it is important to be there to face the next ball. It takes just one ball to get out.

"I actually enjoyed this innings a lot. This is real Test cricket, when you can score a century even when made to struggle. You can't score all your hundreds in 120 or 130 or 140 balls; sometimes you will have to play more balls, 200 or 230. I enjoyed spending that time a lot."

Rahane is not verbally aggressive, but as a Test batsman he has always looked to dominate attacks once he is set. It can be difficult for such batsmen to go through struggling times, but he spoke of not feeling ashamed of these periods.

"Sometimes in Test cricket, you are not batting in rhythm," Rahane said. "But your attitude - how determined you are, your focus levels - matters more, rather than thinking about technique. Many times, a batsman struggles against the short ball or outside the off stump. Then he thinks too much about technique. But I think that it's better how you handle yourself mentally in that situation because the situations change. I was struggling, but I think there is no shame in struggling. If you play Test cricket, if you struggle, you should not be ashamed that you're struggling. If you're struggling, fine. But time and situations change, and how you handle them and dominate is important."

Having survived the first day, Rahane said he was glad he was being bounced. "Today I was happy they were bowling short balls at me," he said. "I knew short balls will give me some runs. That's my shot. Yes I was struggling yesterday but today was a different day. And I was really happy that they came with the short-ball plan against me. Once I got my hundred I knew I wanted to play a long innings. Once Jeetan Patel and Santner were bowling, I wanted to play my normal shots."

Rahane attacked the spinners because he wanted New Zealand to bring their fast bowlers back in the heat and humidity. This innings and his partnership of 365 with Kohli has given India a solid chance to push for the series whitewash.

"When we were batting, we knew there were [rough] spots getting formed for our bowlers," Rahane said. "[Ravindra] Jadeja and [R] Ashwin are in good rhythm. So we just wanted to wear the New Zealand team down. Once you are tired there are chances you lose one or two wickets before the end of the day. I think tomorrow will be crucial. There is help for the spinners, but we will have to bowl patiently. The pitch is slightly better for batting, but it will slow down gradually and will help spinners too."