Rachin Ravindra smiles sheepishly as he is reminded about his first name. He quickly runs his fingers through his hair, adjusts his glasses and says, “Oh! we don’t really talk much about it at home now…”
But then, he nods his head and admits that a couple of years ago, when he made his Test debut against India, his first name was so much in discussion. Being a cricket aficionado, his father Ravi Krishnamurthy named him after two Indian greats - Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar - and the young all-rounder, who made his ODI World Cup debut on Thursday, with a cracking century against England in the opener, feels privileged to share his name with two icons of the game.
“Obviously, it’s a special blend of those two amazing figures,” he tells Sportstar. With his roots in Bengaluru, Ravindra has had an opportunity of meeting Dravid in the past, but not Tendulkar, and his eyes light up as he speaks about his interaction with the current India head coach.
“He (Dravid) is an amazing cricketer. He coached the India A team for a very long time. So I had a chat with him a couple of times, in between games,” he says, adding: “I am very fortunate to be named after two amazing cricketers…”
As he adjusts his spectacles again, and sits back, Ravindra talks about how, as a teenager, he would travel down to Bengaluru on vacations and spend time playing cricket. His father had played local cricket in the city and was friends with former India fast bowler Javagal Srinath, who Ravindra fondly refers to as ‘Sri Uncle’.
While he still has fond memories of those family trips to India, Ravindra is elated to have made a mark for New Zealand at the world stage. “It’s always special to be able to represent your country, no matter what sort of series it is. Obviously, an ODI World Cup, kind of being the pinnacle of all events, it’s always a pretty special moment. Connecting to India will always be a sense of belonging, but I love my country, love the guys having been born in New Zealand,” he says, and quickly adds with a smile, “I am a proud Kiwi…”
However, he is still in regular touch with his extended family in Jayanagar in Bengaluru and even expects them to cheer for him from the stands, whenever New Zealand plays at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.
Obviously, when New Zealand picked its squad for the World Cup this time around, all-rounder Ravindra had an edge because of his left-arm spin. And the young gun proved the selectors correct - claiming the wicket of Harry Brook in the tournament opener, before hammering a century to guide the Black Caps home.
At a time when the game finds itself at the crossroads, with questions being raised on the future of ODIs, Ravindra - who loves his statistics and numbers - is a fan of the good old format. “I really enjoy the past traditions of cricket. And I can name every single winner from the start of the World Cup and it just shows the significance of the World Cup,” he says. “I like the format a lot because it tests you. You need to have a balance, in terms of the ability to take singles and rotate strike and then, it’s about your ability to hit the ball at the death, and also adjust to the conditions. It tests a player,” Ravindra says.
Before the World Cup opener, Ravindra had featured in 12 ODIs, scoring 189 - at an average of 23.62. But at the Narendra Modi Stadium on Thursday, he stamped his class. When New Zealand lost the 2019 World Cup final against England, Ravindra watched the game at a pub in Bengaluru, and dreamed of donning the national colours soon.
Back then, he obviously did not imagine that four years later, when the two finalists would meet in another World Cup game, he would be the architect behind New Zealand’s convincing nine-wicket win. But back to his ‘second home’, Ravindra is optimistic of guiding New Zealand to a title win.
“As a competitor and as a team, you’re always going to want to win the World Cup. I think if that’s not in your mindset, then probably there’s something wrong. If I’m trying to focus on my processes, do what needs to be done at that moment, in that ball to execute my best and prepare as well as I can for that moment, hopefully, it will sort of come off,” he says.
“We are here to win games for your team and contribute to the team’s success. I think that’s a big part of why potentially the backend environment has been so good over the five or 10 years and that’s why the whole team is sort of directed towards that. So results aside, you’re just trying to contribute in meaningful ways…”
Battling the hot and humid conditions of Ahmedabad, Ravindra did contribute in a meaningful way and ensured that his team got the start it wanted. Since August, he has been on the road - featuring in back-to-back bilateral series - against England, Bangladesh. And, he admits that the games against Bangladesh helped him prepare better to play against spin. And, perhaps, he is reaping the benefits of it all at the World Cup. He proved a point against Pakistan in the warm-up game and once again let his willow do the talking against a quality England bowling attack.
These are still early days for the bespectacled young man, but he hopes to make every opportunity count and make his ‘second homecoming’ special.
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