Ajinkya Rahane: Tailenders scoring runs a good sign for our team

The India vice-captain lauds the batting contributions of the team’s tailenders in the series so far, and says their resistance with the bat has been frustrating the opponents.

Bumrah and Shami added 89 runs for the ninth wicket and remained unbeaten as India set about laying the noose around England on the fifth day at Lord’s.   -  AP

India’s lower order had been keen to contribute with the bat in the series against England, vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane had declared ahead of the series. And after two Tests, it has already displayed its value. Mohammed Shami has a half-century to his name – one of six players to do so in the series so far – and Jasprit Bumrah has scored 62 runs in three innings, including an unbeaten 34 in the second innings of the Lord’s Test.

Bumrah and Shami added 89 runs for the ninth wicket and remained unbeaten as India set about laying the noose around England on the fifth day at Lord’s.

Rahane lauded the team’s lower-order batsmen for their contributions with the bat and acknowledged that such contributions do affect their opponents.

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“When the tailenders are involved in partnerships, it is mentally exhausting for the opposition team. They start wondering when they will be dismissed and when they’ll get their chance to bat,” Rahane said at a virtual press conference ahead of the third Test at Headingley.

“[Bumrah and Shami scoring runs] was a good sign for us, and we must give credit to our last three or four players we have in the line-up – the bowlers – for their contributions with the bat,” he said.

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“Since the [World Test Championship] final, every training day, they’ve batted in the nets, 10-12 minutes. They’re themselves taking this initiative. After bowling, they would ask our batting coach to allow them to bat as well in the nets. It is very good to see this: they wish to contribute with the bat. Even if they add 10 runs each, we can put up a very good score on the board. Certainly, it becomes difficult for opponents when opposition tailenders score runs,” he added.

Returning to form 

Before the lower order's riposte, Rahane and Pujara absorbed much of the pressure when England’s bowlers were on top during the fourth day’s play at Lord's. Their 100-run partnership improved the team’s position after the loss of early wickets, and importantly, it signalled the return to form of both batsmen.

Rahane said he was happy to learn that he was being criticised for his lack of form.

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“I’m happy people are talking about me. I always believe people will talk about important people, so I’m not too concerned about that. It’s all about contribution for the team and Cheteshwar and I... we’ve been playing for a long time: we know how to handle pressure,” he said.

Reflecting on his partnership with Pujara, he said, “The communication was all about thinking about the small targets, and then build it on from there. We always [complain] about Cheteshwar playing slow. But that innings of his was really important for us. He batted almost 200-plus balls; even though he got only 46 runs, I thought those 200 balls were really important for us. We back each other. He told me to back my game; I told him to back his own game. We just wanted to build one good partnership. We knew that 170-180 would have been a very good score on that wicket.”

The upcoming Test will be India’s sixth Test at Headingley (two wins, three losses, one draw), and first since its tour of England in 2002. None of the current players in the team has ever played a Test there, a fact that won’t have a bearing on the team's performance in the third Test, felt Rahane.

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“I feel generally the conditions and the wickets here are similar [to the other venues]. You just have to get into a rhythm on that particular day. In England, it’s all about finding your rhythm as a batsman or as a bowler. If you find your rhythm, it’s all about maintaining that rhythm, and just being confident about yourself. I don’t see any difficulties playing at Headingley as bowlers or as batters. It’s all about starting well, whatever we do,” he said.

Looking ahead to the contest, he said, “We’re not thinking too much about the conditions and whatever Headingley has to offer. It’s all in the mind, and mentally, we’re really strong. We just want to give our best. All the players are in a good space, they’ve been doing really well. It’s all about having the confidence and putting your best foot forward in this game.”

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‘Good break’ 

He said all fast bowlers in the squad were fit and eager to play the next Test.

“Shardul [Thakur] is fit and fine. He’s ready for selection. We just have to see what combination we’re going in with. About rotation policy: we got a very good break after the last Test match. So all the fast bowlers, they’re ready to play, and they want to play, which is a very good sign,” Rahane said.

India is 1-0 up in the series after having dominated both the Tests played so far. When asked what India was doing differently in this series, compared to 2014 and 2018, Rahane said, “When you play in the U.K., your line and lengths are really important. And that’s the challenge. As a bowling unit, bowling your lengths right, bowling your lines right, that’s the key. 2014, when we came here, it was a young unit; guys were still learning. We’re now experienced; all the bowlers have played all over the world. They know how to bowl in certain situations, so, this time around we were just focusing on keeping it simple as a bowling unit, and bowling in the right areas.”

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