Rahane ready for a Melbourne Cricket Ground encore

Ajinkya Rahane, second right, leads his teammates off the ground at the conclusion of the third days play in the second cricket test between Australia and India in Perth, Australia, Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018. AP/PTI

Ajinkya Rahane has fond memories of the imposing Melbourne Cricket Ground. In his last Test outing here four years ago, the little man from Mumbai stood tall and tamed the Aussie pace attack with such ferocity that it overshadowed Virat Kohli’s third century of the series.

His domination of Mitchell Johnson was particularly fascinating with Rahane treating the fiery quick with the disdain that is reserved only for ageing club cricket bowlers. Even as the left-arm quick was giving some time for Kohli after putting the right-hander off with a brief verbal assault, Rahane shielded his partner and took the bowler head-on. He hit Johnson for four consecutive fours in one over and eventually forced him out of the attack.

Kohli was out after compiling another masterpiece (169, 272b, 18x4) but it was Rahane’s knock of 147 (171b, 21x4), full off rasping cuts and crunchy drives, that was the talk of the town.

While recalling the match with great fondness, Rahane said he was excited about the third Test. “Really happy and really excited about this Test match,” he said. “We all know how big it is and to come here 1-1 is really good. We really expected that Australia would bounce back in Perth. We had our chances in Perth but it is important to stay in the present right now and give our best starting from 26th.”

The 30-year-old has had a mixed bag this series so far, scoring two half-centuries and frittering away another start. Come to think of it, in the last 29 months, Rahane has managed just three centuries with the last one coming 15 months ago in Sri Lanka. This fact wasn’t lost on India’s Test vice-captain, who hoped to score a double ton in the third Test.

“I am sure it will come in this match,” he declared. “The way I am batting, from Adelaide to Perth, the mindset I was into a counter-attack and the rhythm I was batting in, maybe 100 or even 200 can come. I think it is more important for me not to think about it. I have to continue batting the way I am. If I can read the situation a bit better and if I can play like that it will be better for the team. Personal milestones can be achieved later as well but first I need to focus on situations and read them better,” he offered.

While emphasising that his attacking style that he approached was his own decision, Rahane, who has got out thrice while trying to be adventurous, said it came naturally to him.

“I am an attacking batsman, but it definitely needs visualization, reading the situation, not only in my hotel room but also in the dressing room,” when asked as to how he strikes balance between attack and defence. “Batting at No. 4 or 5, reading the situation is really important because we all know the Australian attack can come really hard at us. The best option to go in the middle and put them on the backfoot is really important rather than just taking your time. Sometimes it is important to take your time also, but we have (Cheteshwar) Pujara who takes his time really well and bat in that manner. But batting at 4 or 5 sometimes you have to think ahead of the game, and think of the counter-attack,” he explained.

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