When Ajinkya Rahane walked out to bat on Tuesday afternoon, Prithvi Shaw had just completed his century against Assam and was aiming for a double.
Coming into the game with just 168 runs in seven innings, at an average of 22.85, Shaw was under pressure, but he stepped up when it mattered. As Assam bowlers struggled on a flat deck, Rahane knew that it was important for Shaw to capitalise on the steady start and aim higher.
Back then, the Mumbai captain obviously did not expect that Shaw would hammer 379 - the second-highest score in Ranji Trophy and highest by an Indian opener in First Class cricket. But he was confident that if they both can hang in there, runs will flow.
So, the first thing Rahane told Shaw was to not throw away his wicket. “He was struggling before, so I told him since he has got a good start, he should hang in there and not throw away his wicket. I told him ‘ Wicket nahi fekna, tu apna normal game khel, run ayega… (Do not throw away your wicket, play your normal game and the runs will come...)’” Rahane told Sportstar.
He told the same thing to himself. And over the next three sessions, Rahane and Shaw forged a 401-run partnership in 510 balls. Rahane played a captain’s knock of 191 to guide Mumbai to a mammoth 687 for four.
During their stay at the crease, Rahane walked up to Shaw after almost every delivery to have a chat. He would often pat Shaw’s back and the two could be seen sharing a joke or two.
“The field was spread wide, so it was difficult to hit big shots and on such a surface, you don’t get that elevation. So, we decided to go for the singles and twos and whenever there was a loose ball, we looked for boundaries. Otherwise, we were just thinking about ones or twos,” Rahane said.
“I told myself that I need to get a start and capitalise on it. For a batter, it is important to make opportunities count. The conversation was about how to take things forward…”
It was a baffling decision by Assam to win the toss and insert Mumbai to bat on a flat deck, with hardly any assistance for bowlers. But Shaw decided to play mostly in the ‘V’ - between mid-on and mid-off - and the idea was to extend the score as much as possible.
“We were thinking about a certain target because when you have to take 20 wickets in a four-day match, there are cases when time runs out ,” the Mumbai captain said.
So, for Shaw, it was not just about scoring runs, but also about being patient. “When I came to bat today, the idea was to start from scratch. I did not bother about the fact that I was batting on 240. The idea was to start from zero since it was the new ball, so Ajju da (Rahane) would come to me after every over and say, ‘You and I need to take the partnership forward’, and we just followed that,” Shaw told this publication.
Shaw added: “I was also giving him inputs. He does not mind if you tell him something. In fact, he encourages people to speak up. He doesn’t need to, but he is always open to listen to others. So, I would also tell him, “you are playing well, well done.”
It was not easy to bat for long with temperatures soaring in the afternoon, but these lively conversations got the pair going.