The importance of being Rahane

India batsman Ajinkya Rahane’s coach, Pravin Amre, feels his vice-captaincy should motivate him as he prepares for a new beginning in Birmingham on Wednesday.

Ajinkya Rahane pulls a delivery in the tour match between India A and England Lions earlier this month.   -  Getty Images

Four years ago, on a sunny afternoon in Lord’s, when James Anderson was on an outside edge hunt, Ajinkya Rahane set a tent in the middle. He made a laid-back vacation out of his stay. All he did was leave the balls outside off and punish the loose deliveries.

At the end of his innings, India automatically recovered from the precarious foothold – 86/3 to 113/4 to 128/6 – to 295. The Englishmen in the stands applauded as the Mumbai boy walked on to the Lord’s honours board with a fine hundred — his first in England.

In the following years, Rahane’s career graph has been like the Sensex. Despite being vice-captain, the right-hander had to wait till the third Test match in South Africa to feature in the playing XI. He also missed out on the limited-over series in England.

But now, he has a chance to leave a mark where he excels – overseas tour and that too, in England.

The long recess – after the one-off Test against Afghanistan in June – offered Rahane a chance to extend his training sessions with Pravin Amre, who believes the batsman’s role as vice-captain of the team will motivate him to perform in what could be termed as a restart.

READ: Kohli and Co. out to banish the ghosts of the past

The deputy factor

“For a batsman, scoring in England is personally crucial as it is challenging. It is a difficult ask when you are not in the team. But he should not worry about the past. Right now, he is playing in the Indian team as a batsman and a vice-captain, which will be motivating for him,” Amre told Sportstar on Tuesday.

Amre values Rahane’s batting position. “As a key batsman at No.5, he has a role to play. He is going to enjoy the responsibilities.

“The break was a blessing in disguise as we had ample time for the preparations. We were focusing on one format, instead of three, so it was more relaxing. We knew the conditions and we tried to prepare accordingly.” he added.

An unusual heatwave has been stealing the thunder from pacers in the build-up to the series. Experts have started anticipating subcontinent-like weather, but Amre warned against such ‘too good to be true’ situations. “In England, the problem is that you can’t predict the weather. There will be days that are overcast. If the ball is not swinging, it is easier but it will be dangerous once it does. But Rahane has a tremendous record abroad,” he said.

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Rahane averages 52.05 away from home, better than Steve Smith’s 50.96 in Tests outside Australia.

Rahane has scored centuries on three continents – in Wellington and Melbourne, London and Kingston. He will be keen to add more to the list as India prepares for the first of the five Tests against England in Birmingham from August 1.

Dinesh Karthik - the all-rounder

“The IPL and limited-over games are important, but Test cricket is the ultimate. DK will be the all-rounder for India in England with the way he is batting. He had come to me two years ago to sort out a technical problem. Now he is producing results for himself and India. He is not only a keeper, he is an all-rounder. A keeper who can bat or a batsman who can keep.”

— Pravin Amre