The middle of a sweet spot
I don’t remember the exact moment when the batting technique in my school cricket started to change but it was early on around the time when that kid Sachin Tendulkar started appearing on television. It wasn’t just that crotch-yank that started to make its appearance but suddenly, the bat-lifts started to change — the bat started coming down almost straight. Until then, it was that technical wonder Sunil Gavaskar that our school’s best batsmen used to copy and even his bat never came down straight. With Tendulkar, the straight drives of the school mates started to improve.
Surprisingly, we found out as we graduated to college, and grew up into the adult world, not many were copying Tendulkar’s technique. It genuinely surprised some of us. School and college cricket was, for the amateurs amongst us, a time to imitate international cricketers but the serious players of course differed and as they must, charted their own course.
As years passed, the eyes scanned the upcoming Indian players but no one had picked up the bat in the way Tendulkar did.
Until Virender Sehwag burst on the scene, appropriating the elements of Te dulkar’s batting that he wanted, almost cannibalising his idol in the process. He was the first Indian batsman post-Tendulkar with that straight back-lift but his was more of a wristy affair and had this remarkable fluency. Tendulkar’s was more arms as compared to Sehwag.
Not quite but close enough
And so the wait continued until one saw Ajinkya Rahane. His still isn’t Pure Tendulkar of course but his back-lift and the punch comes pretty close to that of the legendary batsman.
He didn’t get a chance to bat that long against Ireland in Hamilton on Tuesday as the openers had almost sealed up the game but he made a sweet little 33 that triggered the above thoughts. His on-the-up punches and his cover drives, when he chooses to lean into them, are quite something.
There was something else about his batting that didn’t immediately strike on Tuesday night but it comes to the fore now. Something that MS Dhoni has talked about him in the past. Here is his quote: “The strength in his (Rahane’s) batting is the gift of timing and his ability to exploit gaps in the field to an extent.”
Timing is fine — many good batsmen have it but not many have that ability to pierce gaps. As good as a batsman like Rahul Dravid, certainly, didn’t have that ability. How often he would lean into his drives and find the cover fielder or mid-off. On the other hand, Sourav Ganguly would scratch around a touch but suddenly unfurl a piercing drive and he would be up and running.
Some batsmen have that knack of timing and Rahane is one of them. And so it was a matter of concern that he was trying to extend himself in the ODIs. He would often go too hard into his shots, trying for power instead of relying on his natural timing and his gap-finding ability started to suffer. Luckily, though, he has seemed far more relaxed these days and seems to trust his innate ability more.
His captain put it best.
“Rahane is definitely one of the individuals, who is not really rigid. He is quite open to ideas. Once he tries out a new idea, he gives you a good response as to whether it’s working or not working for him. It’s really good to see him get the kind of runs. More importantly, how he has been getting those runs.”
Straight, smooth back-lift, the ability to find gaps, and the increasing confidence in trusting his skills. Rahane the ODI batsman will grow and improve as long as he trusts and follows Rahane the Test batsman.
Of course, it remains to be seen how he operates in the times of pressure and crisis for that is when sportsmen arch back to their own comfort zones and make mistakes. But it’s clear that Rahane the ODI batsman is a rapidly-improving batsman.
Source:: Indian Express