Ajinkya Rahane’s replies to journalists after Mumbai’s loss in the Ranji Trophy to Delhi on Friday were full of reminders of cricketing wisdom: that it was important to adapt well to the conditions, that a good “intent” makes a difference, that there were “no excuses in cricket,” that it was all about “attitude, concentration, and focus,” and that it was important to respect all opponents, no matter how weak they appear.
Rahane appreciated Delhi for bowling and batting better than his team. He noted that its new and young bowling attack had excelled; the bowlers knew exactly what areas to bowl in on the pitch at the Ferozeshah Kotla. The loss did hurt, and there were many learnings for his team from this game.
“ Delhi waale khush ho gaye (the people of Delhi are happy),” Rahane quipped when reminded that Mumbai had lost its first game to Delhi since 1979-80, to laughter from journalists.
He continued: “Anyone can beat anyone. Whatever happened in past is in the past, it doesn’t matter. Every player intends to win matches for his team. Delhi played really well. Their intent was good in bowling and batting. That’s what matters in cricket – if you have a good intent, the results then are in your favour. Delhi did that really well in this game, and really happy for them. Even at the start of the match, I had stated that we respect Delhi, even if they had done badly this season. It’s important to respect every team.”
The nature of the pitch here was different from that in Mumbai or other venues, and the cold weather did take getting used to, but Rahane didn’t want to use those as an excuse for the poor performance.
“You get these kinds of pitches in domestic cricket. That’s the challenge. And you have to adapt to it. Because in Mumbai you get red soil, the wickets are completely different. Over here in Delhi, the wickets are generally on the slower and lower side. As a cricketer, it’s a challenge to adapt to these conditions quickly and to play accordingly. We’ve been playing cricket in so many parts of our country; it’s all about adapting, attitude, concentration, and focus – what you want to do, what you want to achieve, and how badly you want to do it for your team. It’s all about that,” he said.
Rahane rued some tame dismissals in the first innings that prevented his team from getting to a score of 350 or so in the first innings, after a great recovery by the middle order. Mumbai’s major setback, however, was in the second innings: Divij Mehra ripped through the top order, and Mumbai was left struggling at 37 for 5. Rahane played cautiously to attempt a recovery, but he departed after scoring 51. Besides Tanush Kotian, who scored 50, there wasn’t much resistance to follow, and the writing was on the wall.
“In Ranji Trophy, four-day or five-day cricket, you get a session where a team can lose five-six wickets in that session. It can happen to any team. It’s important how we come back, how we bounce back from that. [Mehra] bowled really well in that first session. He kept that line and bowled really straight. Didn’t give us any loose balls. We had to actually craft in (sic). That’s what my plan was, to just stay on the wicket for as long as possible rather than thinking about the outcome or what was going to happen. It’s all about playing one ball at a time.
“Whoever is bowling at you, you’ve got to give respect to that individual and that team. Regardless of whether the bowler is playing his 100th First Class game or whether he’s playing his first, it’s important to respect him and the conditions and play accordingly. That’s the plan I had: I’m going to respect him. If there is a loose ball, I’ll go after it, but my plan was to just hang in there, take my team out of danger zone, and to help get a lead of 150-170 runs. That didn’t happen,” Rahane said.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom for Mumbai. Sarfaraz Khan, in the first innings, scored yet another century, digging Mumbai out of a deep hole. Rahane praised him: “He’s been batting well. It’s important that he continues his form. It’s important that he focuses on what he’s been doing. Really happy for him.”