Wellington: Elated after scoring his maiden Test hundred, Ajinkya Rahane on Saturday thanked retired legends Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid for inspiring him and helping him become a better player.
Rahane hit 118 on Saturday in the ongoing second Test against New Zealand at the Basin Reserve to take India to a total of 438 runs in their first innings and give the team a lead of 246 runs.
“Rahul Dravid is my role model and I have been following him since childhood. I have played with him. While playing for Rajasthan Royals I have learnt a lot from him both on and off the field. I just want to thank Rahul bhai,” Rahane said at the end of second day’s play here.
“I also want to thank Sachin paaji because during his last two Test matches, he told me about my batting. He said, ‘I have been following you, and your hard work and your fitness. Just be patient and wait for your chance.’ I owe it to both of them,” he added.
To Rahane's credit, he has been successful in Tests in bowling-friendly conditions of South Africa and New Zealand. Playing in his fifth Test, he struck a classy 118 on Saturday, off 158 deliveries with the help of 17 fours and a six.
The 25-year-old said he did not know how to express his feelings after getting the maiden Test hundred. He had narrowly missed the mark during the tour of South Africa.
“I don’t know how to express my feelings. A Test hundred is always special, but I will remember this first hundred for a long time. It’s a very special hundred for me. But Sunday will be a crucial day for us and hopefully the bowlers will do their job,” said Rahane.
“Initially when I went in to bat, I just wanted to take my time to settle down and just wanted to play my game. I was looking to do whatever I have been doing in domestic cricket and continue the same way. I am really happy that I got a hundred here,” he added.
Previously, his best score in Test cricket was 96 runs, which he made against South Africa at Durban.
“In South Africa, when I got 96, I wanted to get that hundred because a first Test hundred is really special. I know how crucial four runs can be, because a hundred is a hundred. When you get out for 96, it still counts as a fifty,” Rahane said.
“This time I wasn’t thinking about my hundred and just wanted to play one ball at a time. I wanted to play in the present and not think about what is going to happen. I told Zaheer (Khan) to play his normal game and that I wasn’t thinking of my hundred.
“I was trying to take as much strike as possible, play four-five deliveries and rotate the strike off the last ball. That helped me because I was willing to back my ability and back my shots,” he said, when asked what he did different this time.
The highlight of the Indian innings was the 120-run seventh wicket partnership between Rahane and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (68), putting India on course for a commanding position in the match.
“His innings gave me a lot of confidence because I have batted with him earlier too, in South Africa.
“He just told me to back myself and play my shots, to play one ball at a time and don’t think too much about what’s happening at the other end.
“That really helped me a lot and gave me good confidence,” said the centurion.
At the end of day’s play, New Zealand were placed at 24/1. They need 223 runs more to make India bat again.
“The first day was really helpful for the bowlers. But on Saturday there was only a little bit help for bowlers, not too much. We just have to be patient on Sunday and just bowl in the right areas.
“The Kiwis are under pressure. Our bowlers are doing a really great job and so they have to continue doing so,” Rahane said.