Ajinkya Rahane held a poster-perfect smile at the pre-match press conference at the M Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore on Wednesday (June 13) but his mouth uttered: “we’ll be ruthless!”
The expression and the tone didn’t mesh, and that summarises India’s mode going into the one-off Test against Afghanistan from Thursday. Dinesh Karthik and Karun Nair, two other Indian representatives in prior conferences, were at the least subtle with their choice of words when implying that they would come out hard against Afghanistan.
The stand-in Indian skipper, not so much. Learning a thing or two from the ever-intense Virat Kohli, perhaps?
Rahane typically played to the gallery, to begin with, waxing lyrical on Afghanistan’s rise and their historic moment, but when it came to how India were going to go about the five-day affair, he held a plastic smile but his eyes zeroed when describing how he and his side plan on dismantling the opponents in their first ever Test.
“We won’t take them lightly,” said Rahane. “We will approach this contest like we do any other match. Our attitude will remain the same on the field because every Test match counts. We’re lucky to be a part of this historic Test but we will be ruthless. We are all excited about what is to come but our focus is on winning the Test.”
“As a Test team, we cannot take anyone for granted because cricket is a funny game. We just want to go out there and play our best. Play the way we’ve been playing throughout the season, especially in this format. Yes, we are going to focus on our strengths and our positives without thinking about Afghanistan. Yes, we respect them as an opponent, but it’s important for all of us to go out there and give more than 100%.”
It is not often that Rahane shows as much intensity, but the responsibility of captaincy in a Test match of such magnitude, he’s bound to want a win at any cost. While it gives him a chance to make a case for himself as an able leader, it also puts him in a position to establish his spot on the bus to England. The Test might be of massive significance to Afghanistan, being their first and all, but to India this is more of a chance to give their Test regulars a chance to get some game-time before leaving for the much-hyped series in England.
Rahane, who has been on an extended slump in the format since scoring a century against Sri Lanka nearly a year ago, will look to use this as an opportunity find his feet before tackling unrelenting climes, if selected, in the upcoming series.
“I don’t know what will happen after this Test, but I will definitely have a word with the selectors. I will start my preparation (for England) in Mumbai like I’ve always done. I’ve always wanted to prepare well before each and every series. As of now, the focus is on this Test and it’s important that each and every Test counts,” he voiced.
The last time India were led by Rahane, they posted an eight-wicket win over Australia in an all-important fourth Test in Dharamsala. He was no Kohli with visible aggression but there was an unmistakable shrewdness to his decision-making, something that will come in handy when he positions his men to make the most of this contest.
“When you’re leading the country, it’s an honour,” said Rahane, who captained Rajasthan Royals in the latest edition of the Indian Premier League. “It’s altogether a different feeling when you’re captaining a franchise. As a captain or a leader, you have to know how to handle them individually and how to get the best out of them. Yes, that (experience with Rajasthan) taught me a lot.”