Ajinkya Rahane, who scored a crucial 81 on the opening day of the first Test in Antigua, isn’t too bothered about missing out on a century, and said that his partnership with KL Rahul was crucial as India managed to reach 203 for 6 before stumps.
The Indian vice captain had come out to bat in the 8th over of the day, when India were reeling at 25 for 3, with the West Indies’s new ball pair’s tail up. Kemar Roach had provided the first two wickets in the fifth over – dismissing Mayank Agarwal and Cheteshwar Pujara caught behind, while Shannon Gabriel accounted for the Indian skipper, who poked at a rising delivery to Shamarh Brooks at slip.
With Jason Holder and Miguel Cummins, who came into the attack soon after, failing to probe the Indian batsmen as much, Rahul and Rahane managed to revive the Indian innings with a handy 68-run partnership. While Rahul was more severe to the erring of lengths by Cummins, Rahane was cautious against Holder. The start was slow, with the West Indian skipper bowling four maiden overs on a trot and Rahane managing only one run off his first 30 deliveries.
Speaking of his innings, the Indian vice captain said, “At the start of our innings, the wicket was tricky. It was a bit sticky (spongy bounce) and there was sideways movement. Throughout the day, they bowled pretty well. What was important was to have a partnership going and still be positive in our intent. The partnership with Rahul was crucial at that situation. We were not thinking too far ahead. The motive was to play one ball at a time and take it on from there.
“Roach bowled pretty well. In international cricket, you have got to respect your opponents. The (first) spell that Kemar Roach and Jason Holder bowled, we had to respect that and still be positive. I thought that communication was really good between me and Rahul and we backed each other well.”
After having seen through the tough phase of the innings, Rahul looked well set for a big score but missed out on a fifty when he inside edged a delivery from Roston Chase to the forward short leg fielder. He departed on 44, but Rahane ensured India’s revival continued, in company of Hanuma Vihari.
“Vihari is a guy who has got lots of runs in Ranji Trophy and first-class cricket, and he knows how to bat in these situations,” Rahane said of Vihari, with whom he added 82 runs for the fifth wicket. “So all these guys, who play a lot of India A games know how to bat in these conditions in five-day games. So I thought Vihari’s approach was pretty good, not only here but even in Australia.”
As his own innings progressed, Rahane picked up some pace. The ground was a bit damp and the ball moved along slowly but Rahane did manage to hit 10 boundaries through the course of his innings. Over the last couple of years, he may have endured some trouble in form but has continued to remain one of the best bets in challenging conditions abroad. On Thursday, it was no different. However, 19 short of a century, he became Gabriel’s second victim of the day.
“As long as I am at the crease, I am thinking about my team, I am not a selfish guy,” he said. “So yes, I am not too concerned about the hundred as I thought 81 on that wicket was really crucial as we are now in a decent position. As long as I am contributing for my team, (that) is what matters. Yes, I was thinking about my hundred but the situation we were in – 25 for 3 – was tricky. As I have said, I just thought if I could contribute for my team. I am not too concerned about my hundred as that will come automatically.
“It (the knock) was important as we were playing a Test match after a long time, nearly seven months (vs Australia in January) and I wanted to hang in there, play as many balls possible and take my team to a good position.”
The Mumbai batsman believes his County stint – where he played seven games for Hampshire this summer – was handy, especially since it allowed him to play closer the body, but doesn’t want to read too far into its effects. “It (county stint) was important,” he said. “I took the decision when I got to know that I won’t be a part of World Cup squad. I wanted to make use of the two months and I played seven county games, focusing on my batting, working on few areas.
“When you play in England with Dukes ball, you have got play close to your body. I was batting at No. 3 as well so luckily I got to play the new ball there. Those two months, I really used my time well but it’s too early to say that county stint helped me. But it’s good that I went there and had some batting practice.
“In England, everyone knows that it’s all about the conditions. When its cloudy, you got to respect the conditions and when its sunny, you know that its good for batting. I had some good knocks, so yes, it was a pretty good stint for me.”