It’s easy to underestimate some men.
Men who are small in stature, soft-spoken and well-mannered.
Ajinkya Rahane is one such specimen.
He is not flashy, doesn’t do too many ads and doesn’t have a single tattoo on his lean body.
Sometimes you wonder, whether he even belongs to this new-age Indian team that is full of with guys sporting designer clothes, designer beards and designer watches!
The Kohlis, the Pants and the Pandyas. You know who we are talking about!
But as the old adage says, you can’t judge a book by its cover.
As the great American football player, Alex Karras once said – Toughness is in the soul and spirit, not in the muscles.
Make no mistake. Rahane was under huge pressure in this Test match.
People were questioning not just his captaincy credentials but also his place in the side.
But the very same people were oblivious to the fire in his belly, the steel in his spine and the raw desire to compete.
The wolf on the hill is never as hungry as the wolf climbing the hill.
Rahane was the wolf that was climbing the hill.
The silent predator who had the Aussies for lunch!
Tom Moody paid tribute to Rahane’s performance and more importantly, his mindset in a recorded message.
What has moulded Rahane’s character is years of struggle owing to his modest background.
Childhood struggles and Karate
Rahane grew up in a modest family with an engineer father and a homemaker mother.
During his childhood, he could not afford an auto-rickshaw to and from the cricket ground.
He has been quoted as saying, “When I was very young, I could not even lift my kitbag. So my mother (Sujata Rahane) picked it up in one hand and held my younger brother Shashank in the other and the two of us walked to the nets.
At times we ended up walking for 10 kilometres under the harsh sun. My mother then sat outside for three hours till I finished practice and then we walked back.”
Since the Indian right-handed batsman was very shy as a kid, so his father Madhukar Rahane joined him for karate classes.
“I got my black belt, First Dan, at the age of 12 and I was the youngest in my training center. I practiced karate till a few years ago and it has helped enhance my flexibility, stamina and mental toughness,” said Rahane.
“Karate taught me to channel my aggression. During a martial arts exam, I once broke 50 bricks with my hands.”
Another time, 20 sugarcanes bound together were broken on my back and I smashed more than 15 tiles with my head”.
It was this innate sense of aggression that allowed Rahane to be bold during key moments and think out of the box – a vital asset for a captain while playing tough teams like Australia where matches can be won by seizing key moments.
One key moment was Rahane’s reaction on the arrival of Steve Smith. Instead of getting defensive, Rahane sprung an unconventional leg side trap that lured Smith to his doom.
Another key decision was going with Jadeja instead of KL Rahul – a brilliant master stroke in retrospect but a huge risk, had it backfired.
But what helped Rahane was his confidence in his abilities and his team mates.
And an inner calm.
CS Lewis once said – Hardships prepare ordinary people for extra-ordinary circumstances.
Rahane’s case illustrates this perfectly.