Refreshed Ajinkya Rahane eyes domestic season 'to start from zero again'

Middle-order batter had missed a chunk of IPL and 2021-22 Ranji Trophy knockouts for Mumbai due to a hamstring injury

Deivarayan Muthu
Ajinkya Rahane plays a classy cover drive, India vs New Zealand, 1st Test, Green Park, Kanpur, 1st day, November 25, 2021

Ajinkya Rahane will lead West Zone in the Duleep Trophy this season  •  BCCI

Having recovered from the hamstring injury he had sustained during IPL 2022, Ajinkya Rahane is feeling refreshed and ready to start from scratch in India's domestic season, which kicks off with the zonal-format Duleep Trophy from Thursday.
Rahane, who had missed a chunk of the IPL and then the 2021-22 Ranji Trophy knockouts for Mumbai, is set to mark his return by leading West Zone in the Duleep Trophy.
"The recovery has been good," Rahane said on the eve of their Duleep Trophy opener in Chennai. "I was in NCA for a couple of months. The NCA staff and BCCI looked after me really well. I'm completely fit, and this is my first game after injury.
"It [a full-fledged domestic season] is really important. I'm looking forward to start from zero again. For me, I don't want to think about my past or future; it's about being in the moment, and that's why I said I want to start from zero again. You always get goosebumps when you go on the field, and I always like that feeling.
"When you get that goosebumps, you get the motivation - whichever game you're playing, whether it is a domestic game or international game. That feeling should be there. That feeling is still there [for me], and I'm really excited about this season, starting with Duleep Trophy."
Rahane refused to view the upcoming domestic season as a path back to the national side - he has not played for India since the Cape Town Test against South Africa this January - and instead said that his focus was to just stay fit throughout the season.
"We will see what happens in the future, but I believe it's important to be in the moment and focus on what's in hand right now rather than focus on your future," he said. "[It] took me two months to get fit. I had to follow a strict diet and routine for these two months, but it was really good, and the [NCA] staff were really positive. I'm out of that now. [I] just want to be fit throughout the season, and keep scoring runs.
"This [at Chepauk] was just my second session outdoors. I was just batting indoors in Mumbai, so I'm not thinking too far ahead or thinking too much about my batting. I [have] got the experience, but it is important to be in the moment and respect the opponents and respect the conditions wherever we are playing, and then take it from there."
Rahane captains West Zone against first-timers North East Zone in the Duleep Trophy starting Thursday in Chennai, while East Zone simultaneously play North Zone in Puducherry on the opening day of India's 2022-23 domestic season.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo