Ajinkya Rahane turned 35 last month. He says he still has “a lot of cricket left” in him, but he is focused on living in the time and not looking too far ahead. India’s new WTC cycle starts July 12 in Roseau with a two-match Test series against West Indies.
Rahane has been named vice-captain of the Test team, even though he just joined the team again last month after being away for more than a year. He scored 89 and 46 runs for India in that game against Australia, which was the WTC final.
“I’m still young, and I still have a lot of cricket left in me. “I’ve worked a lot on my fitness in the last year or so,” Rahane said after rain cut India’s practice at Windsor Park short for the second day in a row. “I’ve worked on a few things about how I hit the ball. I’m enjoying my cricket a lot, liking my batting. I don’t think about the future too much. Every game is important, both for the player and for the team as a whole. I’m only concentrating on that.”
Since he was taken off the Test team in February 2022, Rahane has focused on having fun while playing and not making any goals. During the 2022–23 domestic season, he was the captain of Mumbai in all forms. He led the team to the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 title, and he also batted well.
From September 2022 until February of this year, he played first-class cricket 16 times and made 884 runs, with three hundreds and a half-century, for an average of 58.93. Even though his numbers weren’t the best in the world, they showed that he was still in the running in case a spot opened up.
In the end, India didn’t need Shreyas Iyer for the WTC final because they had other players with more experience. When Rahane got the call, he was batting in a way that few people thought he would in the IPL. He went from being an anchor to a full-fledged boundary shot.
Rahane wasn’t in Chennai Super Kings’ original plans, so this was a big change. His IPL career seemed to be over because he hadn’t hit a fifty since the 2020 event. And, just like on the Indian team, Super Kings got a spot because Ben Stokes was hurt and Moeen Ali was sick. In his second game, he beat Mumbai Indians by hitting 61 runs off just 27 balls, which won the game.
Rahane said, “Nothing has changed,” when asked about this new turn in his work. “CSK gave me a role, and you try to fill that job. Before that, my job was to be an anchor, so that’s how I played. CSK told me, “You have freedom, so go play the way you want to.” I’m a run-maker, so I always try to get runs. Nothing else has changed except the role. I’ve always said that I’ll do what the team needs me to do. That’s where my attention is.”
Rahane’s first match for India under Rohit Sharma’s leadership was the WTC final last month, even though they have known each other for a long time and have played together for Mumbai since they were young.
“I will play the part that Rohit gives me. “It’s great to play for Rohit,” Rahane said. “He lets the players do what they want and then backs them. They show that the captain is good. I’m feeling good. We both have a wonderful equation. I’m used to being the second-in-command. I did the job for almost five years, but I’m really glad to be back on the team. I’m really glad to be back as vice-captain.”
Rahane was especially happy for another Mumbai boy, 21-year-old Yashasvi Jaiswal. Jaiswal made a name for himself in local cricket, where Rahane was captain, in 2022 and 2023. Jaiswal’s attitude and stroke-play made people take notice. In 26 innings, Jaiswal has a first-class average of 80.21, and in his most recent first-class game, the Irani Cup in March, he got runs of 213 and 144.
Jaiswal was on the back-up team for the WTC final, but he has now been moved up to the main team. He will probably be given a cap to replace Cheteshwar Pujara either at the top or at one drop.
“I’m thrilled for him. “He has a lot of promise,” Rahane said. “He has done a great job for Mumbai and in the IPL. The most important thing is how he bats with a red ball. His record is good, and he did well for both Mumbai and the Duleep Trophy last year. I’ll tell him to just go out there and bat the way he wants to and not worry too much about being on the world cricket stage. It’s about going in the middle and playing freely.”
Rahane also didn’t think it was a big deal that India’s pace attack only had 88 Test catches between them. Mohammed Siraj, who has taken 52 wickets in Tests so far, will be India’s leader in the West Indies. However, Jaydev Unadkat, who played his first Test in 12 years against Bangladesh last December, has been India’s most reliable red-ball bowler in domestic cricket for the last four years.
In two of them, Unadkat led the team to a championship, and in one of them, 2019-20, he broke a record by taking 67 wickets, which is the most a fast bowler has ever taken in a single Ranji season. In 2022-23, he only played in four Ranji games because he was called up to play for his country. Unadkat was the team’s captain in all of those games, and he took 26 wickets at a rate of 13.88 per game. His best game was against Delhi, when he took a hat-trick in the first over and ended up with 8 for 39, which was his best score ever.
“Siraj is a senior bowler, and Jaydev has a lot of experience. Rahane said, “The other two guys [Shardul Thakur and Navdeep Saini] have a lot of experience, so it’s a chance for me.” “[Mohammed] Shami is our most experienced bowler and has done a great job for us, but we also need to give him a break because we have a long season ahead of us.
“At the same time, we don’t think too little of West Indies. We don’t know what people on the outside are saying, but we’re not ignoring them. In the last one to two years, they have done well on tests at home. We got ready well in Barbados before coming here, so we’re good to go. It’s all about making a good start now.”