Q: When did you first hear of Ajinkya Rahane?
A: I think it was during his U-19 days (2006). I was the chief selector of both India and Mumbai. People used to talk about his temperament even then.
Q: Rahane has no less than 4,862 runs in 50 first-class games. However, it’s his success in the IPL that’s getting noticed. Isn’t that unfair?
A: Let’s look at it this way. The IPL gives more exposure to players. It’s up to them to translate that into performance at the first-class level. Paul Valthaty was the flavour of IPL 4. But where is he now? Similarly, Rahane must continue to bat the way he does for India, Mumbai, West Zone and other teams. What he needs to do is score big runs in crucial games, against quality attacks.
Q: Are you of the opinion that he’s a finished product now?
A: I think he’s been a finished product for the last one year or so. Players half as talented as him were given India caps. I don’t blame anyone, though. It’s part of the game. I don’t watch the IPL, but that day I watched a game because he was playing. His knock against Royal Challengers Bangalore was simply phenomenal.
To score a hundred in 50-odd balls is a superb achievement. To do it with the help of textbook shots is even better. That’s what I love about Rahane’s batting. He never plays an unconventional shot like paddle sweep, reverse sweep, upper cut, lower cut and what not. Did you see the inside-out six he hit off Muttiah Muralitharan? He was playing against the spin.
Q: Where do you think he should bat for India?
A: Given his talent, technique, temperament and range of shots, I think the No 3 position suits him best. He is extremely focussed, hard working and also modest — a quality missing in most players these days.
Q: So you think he can take Rahul Dravid’s place?
A: Well, someone has to! I see shades of Dravid in Rahane.
Q: What are the prerequisites of a No 3 batsman?
A: The player who bats at No 3 has got to be one of your best batsmen. If the first wicket falls early, then the No 3 batsman becomes a virtual opener. And in case the openers put up a big partnership, then the No 3 batsman must be prepared to bat in third gear straight away. It’s a very important position. He used to open for Mumbai, but he bats at No 3 now. Either way, he’s well-equipped.
Q: He’s playing under Dravid in the IPL. How much of an advantage is that? You must have benefitted a lot from playing alongside Sunil Gavaskar and other greats at Dadar Union…
A: Look, it’s a great help for any youngster. You get advice on the spot. Rahane is now opening the innings with Dravid. Every single partnership will teach him something new. And when it comes to technique, there is no one better than Dravid. What more can Rahane ask for?
Q: There is a perception among selectors all over the world that a good bowler must be blooded right away while a batsman must be picked (for the country) only when he scores runs over a period of time. Do you think that may have cost Rahane a year or two?
A: Perception varies from selector to selector. Who is a selector? He is someone who has an eye for talent. Why not ask scorers and statisticians to pick teams then? Look, you need to know when to pick a player. I am glad Sachin Tendulkar wasn’t a victim of this perception. He would have made his debut at the age of 19, not 16! For your information, I have picked many players on just one innings. Yes, just one knock! You need courage of conviction.
Q: Where does Rahane go from here?
A: I think he will be picked for the tour of Sri Lanka (three ODIs and three T20s). He should grab that chance. Then there’s the World Twenty20. Consistency is the key. He needs to keep knocking on the door.