(January 11, 2022) As a teenager, Ajinkya Rahane would be up at the crack of dawn, don his cricket wear, and scramble to Mumbai’s busiest railway station: Dombivli. His extremely weighty kit-bag was a constant companion – as he kept switching shoulders to handle its bulk. Jostling through a sea of people into a packed-like-sardines local, the commute would take away a precious four to five hours every day from the Indian cricketer.
That daily struggle can take a toll. But not for Ajinkya, whose immense love for cricket, and fire in his belly kept him going. If cricket is worshipped in India, his dedication was unwavering. “The burning desire and passion for cricket led me across the hard yards. The struggle taught me to be relentless, perseverant, and firm in my determination at a very young age,” smiles Ajinkya Rahane, among the finest batsmen in Indian cricket, in an exclusive conversation with Global Indian.
The senior Indian cricketer, often likened to Rahul Dravid, played 82 tests, 90 ODIs and 20 T-20s. The mouth-watering prospect of being in Mumbai’s Ranji Trophy squad for the upcoming season fills him with boundless joy.
The boy from Ahmednagar
Born in Ashwi Khurd in Sangamner taluka of Ahmednagar district (Maharashtra) in June 1988, Ajinkya was just seven when his father Madhukar Baburao Rahane took him to a small coaching camp with a matting wicket in Dombivli as the family could not afford proper coaching. Thereafter, the budding batsman’s journey into the cricketing world had it trials and tribulations. Yet, the determined Rahane was relentless in pursuing his favourite sport.
The 33-year-old Indian cricketer, who captained India in six tests, including the one in Australia in 2020, where he inspired a depleted Indian team to a famous test series win against the hosts, reveals that his journey was not hunky-dory. “Though I represented Mumbai in domestic cricket, I did not belong to the part of the city that is acclaimed for churning out talented cricketers,” says Ajinkya, who kickstarted his cricketing journey from Dombivli, 52 kilometers away from the heart of Mumbai.
Great to start off the series on a positive note. 🙌🏽 pic.twitter.com/7Be03Zj1jb
— Ajinkya Rahane (@ajinkyarahane88) December 30, 2021
The talented and classy stroke player initially trained in a local academy in Dombivli itself. Later, he shifted to the more renowned academies. The ex-vice-captain of the Indian test cricket team, has from the age of 17, coached under Pravin Amre (who represented the Indian team between 1991 and 1999).
Growing up, his idols were cricket greats Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar. “I admired Rahul Dravid’s temperament, strong resolve, his tireless and consistent spirit, and what he has done for Indian cricket. I have been Sachin Tendulkar’s wholesome fan of his overall batting prowess. I idolised him, especially as he is a Mumbaikar,” informs Ajju or Jinx, as he is fondly called. In his first tour of Sri Lanka in 2015, Rahane broke the world record by taking eight catches – by far the highest in a test match by any fielder. In the second test at Colombo, he scored his fourth test 100, scoring 126 in the second innings, leading India to victory. In the process, he reached his career-best ranking of 20th at the ICC Player rankings.
Belief and dedication to cricket
“The traits I imbibed early on, gradually reflected in my performances on the field,” insists the lad, who schooled at SV Joshi High School, Dombivli. He had his first-class debut at 19 for Mumbai against Karachi Urban in September 2007. Opening the innings with Sahil Kukreja, Ajinkya scored a century on debut — 143 of 207 balls.
Ajinkya made heads turn straight away through some career-defining centuries in his test debut. It has made him a household name. A composed demeanour led to some great innings in the most challenging circumstances.
Not many know that this Indian cricketer sat on the sidelines of the national team for about two years, prior to his test debut. “Such instances tend to break down young players who are yet to find their feet. But waiting for an opportunity, and then grabbing it was ingrained in me. It made me more resilient, and pushed me further to cherish, accept and excel in the opportunities provided later on,” smiles the right-handed batsman.
Jinx made his international debut in T20s against England at Manchester in August 2011, and test debut in the March 2013 Border-Gavaskar Trophy. His first test century, a sweet memory, came at Basin Reserve, Wellington against New Zealand.
The hardwork paid off
Rahane seamlessly slotted into the middle-order and soon became permanent on the team, and even led the test side to some iconic victories in the past few years. As of May 2021, Ajinkya ranks 27th in the ICC Test batting rankings, with a tally of 612 points.
“As a cricketer, my goal is to win as many games as possible for the country,” says the ex-vice-captain of the Indian test team, whose two back-to-back centuries in the Emerging Players Tournament in Australia earned him a place in the India ODI squad for the tour of England in 2011.
Like all sportsmen, Ajinkya takes fitness very seriously. “I workout five or six days a week – a combination of strength, conditioning, agility and endurance workouts,” informs the fitness aficionado. “I try to avoid sweets and other unhealthy stuff. I prefer home-cooked meals,” informs the sportsman who meditates regularly.
The stylish cricketer is also a bookworm. “I like to read whenever I find time,” informs Rahane, who is currently reading Make Your Bed by William H McRaven. He says it provides simple, universal wisdom and words of encouragement to inspire one to achieve, even in the darkest moments of life.
He is all heart too. Rahane married his childhood friend Radhika Dhopavkar in September 2014, and the couple welcomed their first child, daughter Aarya, in October 2019.
Hailing from a family of farmers, issues concerning farmers are very close to his heart. “I am deeply passionate about the farming sector. I want to make the life of farmers better, and increase their incomes by my investments,” says the advocate of farmer’s welfare. The Mahindra Group’s MeraKisan, an organic agri producer, had partnered with Rahane a few years ago. His goal was to contribute towards delivering sustainable prosperity of Indian farmers with new-age organic farming techniques. “I wish to work upon these issues more in the coming years,” shares the Arjuna award winner.
In December 2020, Rahane was made captain of the Indian team for the final three matches of India’s tour to Australia in place of Virat Kohli, who had taken paternity leave. India went on to win the fourth test in Brisbane and handed Australia their first test defeat at The Gabba in 32 years. Rahane was central to this epic turnaround.
Congrats on a fantastic captaincy stint Virat 👏👏. Lots of special memories. Wishing you the best always! pic.twitter.com/6oreJ9EFjd
— Ajinkya Rahane (@ajinkyarahane88) January 16, 2022
Rahane ruffled a few feathers after he stated, “someone else took the credit” for decisions he took to resurrect India’s fortunes in Australia. “I know what I’ve done there. I don’t need to tell anyone. That’s not my nature to go and take credit,” Rahane revealed in an episode of Backstage With Boria.
His rough patch since December 2021 when the Board of Cricket Control in India dropped him as vice-captain, he sincerely hopes is just a phase. Yet, with a never-say-die attitude, Rahane waits padded up and ready for a call to prove his mettle. For now though, he has the Ranji Trophy on his mind, and miles to go.