He has many promises to keep as the Vice-Captain of the Indian Test Team. Ajinkya Rahane represents Mumbai in domestic cricket and Delhi Capitals in IPL. Here are excerpts of an interview with the ace cricketer.
The level of attention and adulation that Indian cricketers, and you in particular, receive is immense. How do you cope with it?
Attention and adulation are part and parcel of our profession. I believe that we are what we are because of our fans. So it is important to acknowledge it. It keeps me humble and motivates me a lot to do better and improve.
Cricket is a consuming sport, and living in a bio-bubble playing intensive international cricket can be psychological draining. How do you stay on top of things and balance that with other aspects of your life?
Living in a bio-bubble is definitely challenging but is important to channelise one’s energy in the right way. Situations aren’t in our control. I’m very happy that I get to do what I love. I’m thankful that I get to play this sport which I’m really passionate about. It’s all about focusing one’s energy in the right direction and on things that we can control. We have to make sacrifices and sometimes I feel, as long as we are in a good mind space and as long as we focus on positive energy, that is all that matters.
How do you relax outside of cricket?
Outside of cricket, whenever I get free time, I try to spend it with my family and with my daughter. We sometimes go out for a drive. I love listening to music as well.
You have been playing international ricket for 10+ years, starting with the under 19 team tour to New Zealand to your match winning performance in Australia. How would you describe this journey?
It has been a great learning experience. I have learnt a lot since my younger days, and that process will continue. Every day on the cricket field, I try to focus on what I can learn. We cannot take anything for granted, especially in the field of cricket. The journey has been memorable and I learnt a lot.
Your captaincy record remains unbeaten with 4 wins and a draw. What do you attribute this to?
I don’t think of records; I generally focus on the process. Being a captain has been the proudest moment of my life and career. I just want to keep it simple and focus on how I can bring the best performance out of each and every individual, and how I can contribute as a captain and as a player.
Have you watched previous Indian captains and picked up aspects of their leadership?
I have played under a few captains. Whenever we play, I try to observe each individual and read the game. That helped me a lot. Even if I sit in the dressing room, I try to read the game, and I try to understand what the opposition captain may do in a given situation. Whenever I am present as a captain or a player, I focus on what my strategy will be.
Who are the people you have most enjoyed speaking to and learnt the most from during your career?
I enjoyed speaking to Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar. They are my role models.
How exciting is it to see the next generation of talent coming through?
It is very exciting to see the kind of players that are emerging, like fast bowlers, batters, etc. I personally get to learn a lot from them. The way cricket as a field is progressing, it’s all about how you as an individual have to keep yourself a few steps ahead of the game.
How would you characterise your captaincy?
I focus on one-on-one talks rather than group talks. I try to analyze individual’s strengths and we generally communicate on that. Giving the player confidence is key. Giving the players freedom to express themselves and backing your team are very important as well. I generally try to think and visualize how I can put the opposition under pressure. If they are on top of us, I think how we can put them under pressure and then go one or two steps forward. Sometimes positive thinking helps to keep going. Your visualisation and belief in your ability in that particular moment is very important. If that is there, everything else falls in place. Belief, trust in your methods and intent, are the key.
Please share some leadership advice with our readers – what are the important aspects an aspiring sportsman must endeavour to learn to succeed as a leader?
Every leader is different. For me, frank communication is a really important attribute for a leader and an inclusive style of style of leadership is what I adopt. To make each individual in the team a leader in their own right is my mantra. It’s important that each player takes sufficient responsibility for the greater good of the team. They need to be up to face any situation they come against and hence a lot of self-belief must be infused within them for the same. Moreover, I also believe in keeping a channel of communication open with all the players, regardless of their seniority, at every time. They should feel comfortable enough to come up to me and discuss their problems. This makes sure that none of the players walk into the field with any sort of mental baggage and it naturally uplifts the entire performance of the team.
If not cricket, which sport would you choose?
I love playing cricket, but I love to watch tennis
Your pet peeve?
Some essential items that are always in your bag?
Sanitizer, perfumes, phone charger
Yoga or gym?
A book you would recommend?
Currently reading this one: Make your bed by William H. McRaven.
– By Namita Gupta