In his interview with Nasser Hussain over a year ago, Virat Kohli has a blunt message about succeeding in England. "You need a clear mindset. A technique is one thing, but even people with not so strong techniques against the swinging ball have succeeded in England". For Ajinkya Rahane, it is almost the other way around. The Mumbai batsmen has the methods and skill to combat the swinging ball, but as Kohli so rightly stated it is all about the mind.
Rahane is one man that thinks immensely about the game. He is also the type of character that is willing to listen to all the ideas that are bounced around by the team management. But for players such as Rahane, at times it is best to keep things uncomplicated and keep the mind clear.
The great Sachin Tendulkar always felt he was at his best when his mind could segregate the subconscious and the conscious thoughts apart at the point of delivery. Cast your mind back to the second innings of the first Test, Rahane has faced nine balls from Sam Curran, all of them are pitched up, half of them are angled across him and couple shape back in nicely. Rahane moves back and across, applied the forward press and then either leaves or plays the inswinger towards mid-on in a perfect fashion.
As Curran lets go of the 10th delivery to Rahane, the right-hander is forward again and looking for the full ball. Curran outwits him. He pounds the ball short of the length. The ball should have been creamed through point, but Rahane is in a state of a conscious state of mind, he is looking for the full ball, the mind is pre-set, it is not reactive and the minute he realises the ball could be cut through point off the back-foot, he is late on it and ends up just poking it to the keeper.
The dismissal sums up Rahane's state of mind. He is still in the conscious state rather than the subconscious or the reactive state. It costs him his wicket.
Fast forward to two days before the Lord's match, Rahane is in the nets and he is keen not to throw his hands at the ball. For a long period, he practices his leave. Then he practices the forward defense. Watching it side on it is perfect, but then observing it closely he is battling the muscle memory of moving his hands towards the ball.
The head position or the weight is too much on the front foot, so when the ball is suddenly short he is unable to transfer it on the back foot.
At the press conference, the bowling coach, Bharat Arun explained the Indian batsmen's mentality of overcoming the swinging ball by stating, "They made the choice of batting outside the crease and they did it in the practice game as well. They feel they get a lot more options in doing that rather than staying back in the crease. You're cutting the amount of swing that the bowler can get by going further up and closer to the ball."
It is a fair point, but in the case of Rahane, he had been so infatuated by coming forward to every ball that he has forgotten his positive instincts. Perhaps it might be worth for him to watch the highlights of his majestic ton at Lords in 2014.
It is amazing how having a positive mindset can change the approach of the batsmen. Technically, Rahane has the game to excel and just needs to free his mind from being clotted with thoughts and just play the ball on the merit.
Four years ago after his century has said: "I had not thought too much about the pitch, it was all about keeping myself in the right frame of mind and playing the ball on merit." On that day he had kept it so simple and scaled the heights of batting.
It is the mindset from four years ago that Rahane needs to imitate during the second Test. At training, he seemed to be focused on trying to solve his problems rather than thinking with a bland mind. With each ball he faced in the nets, it seemed like his lower and upper body was working in an unsynchronised manner. It was a case of him thinking too much about his technique.
Perhaps it is worth just tapping his captain on his shoulder and asking him how he can keep the mind so lucid at the point of delivery. Rahane has all the attributes to succeed, it is just all about getting all in an affirmative mind, so he plays the ball in that subconscious mind rather than the conscious one.
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