Captain of Rajasthan Royals in the IPL, Ajinkya Rahane is one of the few players who have scored 1000 runs in a single Ranji season. He also plays in the national team and has many remarkable performances on the ground making him a player to watch out for.
A key player in the the Ranji Trophy, Ajinkya made his one day international debut during the tour of England in 2011 and test debut in 2013. A quiet player who prefers to let his bat do the talking, this 30 year old tells us more in this exclusive conversation.
Tell us something about your early days in school and college.
I completed my schooling from S V Joshi High School in Dombivli, Mumbai. One could always find me sitting in the first bench at school. As a student, I was fond of mathematics, but I loved history a lot more. I also enjoyed reading books which I do till date. I pursued my bachelor’s degree in Commerce from the University of Mumbai.
When did you first get attracted to cricket? Tell us about how you started with the game.
I was about seven when I first started training at a small coaching club, just around the corner in Dombivli in Mumbai. Fortunately for me, when I turned 17, I got an opportunity to train under the guidance of former Indian batsman Pravin Amre. I made my debut for India U-19 during the New Zealand tour in early 2007, scoring two centuries. The selectors were impressed with my performance and picked me for the Mohammad Nissar Trophy in Pakistan. At 19, I then made my first-class debut against Karachi Urban in September 2007, notching up a century in the game. I also made my Ranji debut for Mumbai in 2007 – and then the story goes on.
When did you decide to make a career in cricket?
I think I was passionate about cricket from a very young age. My idol has been Sachin Tendulkar and I had always longed to play alongside him. When I finally got my chance, I was naturally overwhelmed. My parents could not believe that the day had arrived and that my dream had finally come true. Both of them knew how passionate I was about the game and had always encouraged me to play. I remember smashing my neighbours’ window panes which kind of forced my father to get me enrolled at the club to train in cricket. Little did I know back then that my career had already kicked off in that sense.
How has your cricketing journey been?
It definitely has not been a joy ride. There have been a lot of ups and downs, tough and trying times, but my passion and love for the sport along with the support of my family and fans has helped me sail through. My dad has constantly been my inspiration and I follow just one success mantra which is to enjoy the game and the rest will follow.
Tell us about your fitness regimen and what exercises you do.
I have always believed in fitness and stamina largely courtesy the fact that I have played karate and cricket during my school days. Apart from workout sessions, I prefer yoga and meditation helps me stay calm and build my composure. Other fitness forms that I do include running, Surya Namaskar and Karate. I started practicing Karate since I was six and by the time I was 11, I was a black belt and this helped set the fundamentals of my fitness.
What kind of diet do you follow?
My diet includes a lot of protein in the form of eggs, oats, fruits, fresh fruit juice, fish, grilled chicken and salad. I time my meals in the day and ensure that I eat meals at intervals of every 2-3 hours. Personally, I avoid intake of carbs because it turns into sugar and the body then burns sugar as fuel instead of fat.
To keep up with the game what kind of practice do you put in on a daily basis, especially when you do not have matches?
You could say that my practice sessions often include practicing as a batsman and fielder. While my focus is on batting and fielding, I also tend to bowl to improve my reflexes. I believe in variety being the spice of life.
What has been your most memorable moment to date on the cricketing field?
Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to be a part of teams which enjoyed tremendous successes. To me, I would rank the moment I got my first India call-up as the most memorable one. I remember speaking to my mother about it back then and the memories are still fresh in my mind. Receiving my Test cap from Harbahajan Singh was also a special moment.
How do you constantly adapt to play all three forms of the game?
It does get difficult, but the same attitude and intensity needs to be maintained when going on the field irrespective of the format. Form of the players is of utmost importance whereas format of the game is secondary. Moreover I follow Vedanta philosophy by Swami Parthasarathy that helps me a lot to work on my mental aspect.
How is it when you play abroad? Is it harder to adapt to conditions there as compared to India?
It is challenging to adapt to conditions and I do my preparation to try and keep it simple. In England for instance, conditions change even within a span of 15 to 20 minutes and it all depends on the weather, but from experience, playing close to your body, playing as late as possible and having the patience to wait for every loose ball is very essential.
What is your advice to budding cricketers?
I would tell all the youngsters that they need to remember to just go out there and enjoy cricket with passion. Play with a good attitude. Sometimes there will be situations that you will not be able to control, but the thing that you can control is your attitude, dedication on the field and passion to play cricket.
What do you like doing when not playing cricket?
I enjoy reading books whenever I am not playing. I usually end up reading autobiographies and books on sports.