Ajinkya Rahane turned 35 last month. Not too long ago, many believed his days as an international cricketer are over. He was anyway never a hotshot in the IPL and his performance in the last few seasons had even given rise to question marks about his future in the league. But he proved all the doubters wrong in grand style, answering all the questions with his bat.
After Kolkata Knight Riders released Ajinkya Rahane, MS Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings picked him in the auction ahead of IPL 2023. Rahane, quite understandably, didn’t feature in the first few games but when he did, he appeared to be a different cricketer. In his 15-year-long IPL career, Rahane had never batted with the kind of freedom he did for CSK this season. His strike rate of 172.49 – 35 more than his previous best in 2019 – was the best in his IPL career.
Rahane had a pretty good domestic season for Mumbai too but his exploits in the IPL and injuries to key players KL Rahul and Shreyas Iyer played major roles in his comeback to the Indian side after a gap of more than a year. He was named in India’s squad for the WTC final.
Even though India lost to Australia quite convincingly in the WTC final, Rahane stood out for India. His gutsy 89-run knock in the first innings was proof that he is far from being done.
At 35, Rahane is young, rejuvenated, reborn and back as India’s vice-captain in Test cricket for West Indies tour. “Is age mein matlab? Main abhi bhi young hoon (What do you mean by at this age? I’m still young). There’s still a lot of cricket left in me,” a slightly displeased Rahane said replying to a question about his age in a press conference ahead of the first Test against the West Indies.
“I had a good IPL, I scored runs in domestic cricket too. Batting-wise, I got a lot of confidence. I have worked a lot on my fitness in the last one and a half years. Right now, I’m enjoying the kind of cricket I’m playing and not thinking too far ahead. Each and every match is important personally as well as for the team,” he said.
‘Go and express yourself’: Rahane’s advice for Yashasvi Jaiswal
With Cheteshwar Pujara being dropped from the Test squad, India are set to have a new No.3 after a long time. The contenders are Ruturaj Gaikwad and Yashasvi Jaiswal with the latter being a frontrunner to make his Test debut in the series opener in Dominica on July 12.
“Great opportunity for the individual who will be playing in place of Pujara. I’m not sure who will play. All the players are experienced, I’m sure it’ll be a great opportunity for whoever plays,” Rahane said.
Rahane is someone who has seen Jaiswal’s rise from close quarters. His advice to the young left-hander was to bat freely like he has been doing for Mumbai in domestic cricket and then for the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL.
“Firstly, I’m really happy for Jaiswal. He did well for Mumbai, and in the IPL. He scored a lot of runs in the Duleep Trophy. His numbers are really good. He should bat the way he has been batting and not think too much about international cricket. It’s all about going out there and expressing yourself,” Rahane said.
‘Not taking West Indies lightly’: Rahane ahead of 1st Test
West Indies may not have qualified for the ICC World Cup 2023 but Rahane is not ready to take them lightly in their home conditions.
“We are not taking West Indies lightly at all. We don’t know too much about the outside noise. Their performance at home in Test cricket has been pretty good. Our focus will be to back our strengths and play good cricket,” he said.