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Ajinkya Rahane not giving up hope of an India comeback

Fresh off a double-century in the Ranji Trophy, the Mumbai captain says, 'I don't want to run after anything… just want to back my game'

Ajinkya Rahane has not played a Test match since January  •  AFP/Getty Images

Ajinkya Rahane has not played a Test match since January  •  AFP/Getty Images

In December 2020, Ajinkya Rahane celebrated what many believed was a seminal Test hundred at the MCG, helping India overcome the ghosts of 36 all out and level the four-match series against Australia 1-1. In Virat Kohli's absence, Rahane then went on to lead India to a historic 2-1 series win.
Two years on, Rahane finds himself out of India's Test squad. He has played a Test match in January this year, but he isn't giving up hope of a comeback, however tough it may be. With Australia set to tour India in February for four Tests early next year, Rahane is keeping himself in the fray by doing the next best thing: score runs in domestic cricket.
Currently leading Mumbai in the 2022-23 Ranji Trophy, Rahane has been part of two big wins to start the tournament. In his most-recent outing, against Hyderabad in Mumbai, Rahane scored a 261-ball 204 in a massive batting performance that helped his team record a bonus-point victory.
With the first Test against Australia slated for February 9, Rahane will possibly have five full red-ball fixtures to make a case for a Test recall. What works for him is that he's been match fit and a constant feature for Mumbai across formats this season. He also led them to their maiden Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy title in November.
"I don't want to prove anything to anyone," Rahane said, when asked about where he thinks his career is at. "I think my competition is with myself. If I stick to that, things will fall into place. I don't want to run after anything… just want to back my game."
"You always have a memory of good things you have done…how you used to play, what was your style, how much did you shuffle, what was the initial movement. Over the years the changes creep into the game…I think these changes are for good as well as we play matches in different countries. But if I have to score runs consistently, I thought I will refer to old Ajinkya's batting and try to implement it."
Ajinkya Rahane
Rahane's place in the Indian Test team is currently being occupied by Shreyas Iyer, who has had an excellent initiation in the longer format. In 10 innings, Shreyas averages 50.08, with one century and four half-centuries. With Shubman Gill also making a strong case to bat in the middle order once a slot frees up, the competition is intense, but Rahane isn't stressing over it.
"There is no point in being disappointed as things are not in my control," he said. "For me, my attitude matters the most. Because of my attitude and my work ethic, I have managed to reach this stage of my life and now I don't want to change anything."
For someone who is seemingly at peace, Rahane believes his mindset while batting now is similar to what it was many years ago, when a "fearless" young batter broke through the ranks for Mumbai.
"You always have a memory of good things you have done…how you used to play, what was your style, how much did you shuffle, what was the initial movement," he explained. "Over the years the changes creep into the game…I think these changes are for good as well as we play matches in different countries. But if I have to score runs consistently, I thought I will refer to old Ajinkya's batting and try to implement it."
Rahane disagreed with the view that issues that had crept into his game leading to his loss of form. Instead, he cited challenging home pitches for the dip in his average and runs. In 28 innings since the MCG ton, Rahane managed just three half-centuries.
"If we look at the averages, they have gone down because of the wickets, because as a batter it is always challenging," he said. "For openers, it is easy, especially in India when the ball is hard. When batters get out, we always think about what mistakes they are committing. But then No. 3-4-5 - [Cheteshwar] Pujara, Virat and me… all of our averages have gone down.
"So, I don't think I was committing any mistakes. Yes, as a player I always focus on where to improve but every time we don't commit mistakes, sometimes the wickets are such…it's not an excuse but that's the reality. Everyone was watching so they know what kind of wickets were prepared in India."