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‘You’ve to Put Your Arm Around a Guy Who isn’t Doing Well’: Captain Ajinkya Rahane’s Way of Leading Youngster-laden Mumbai

The Delhi-Mumbai rivalry will unfold further when the two teams lock horns in their next Ranji Trophy 2022-23 Elite Group B fixture at Arun Jaitley Stadium on Tuesday.

The encounter is often seen as the ‘El Classico’ of the Ranji Trophy, but calling it so would be an exaggeration as it doesn’t seem a great match-up. 41-time champions Mumbai have had a great season so far, placed second on the points table with three victories, a loss and a draw. Whereas Delhi have been overall scattered, yet to find a balance.

This season, Delhi had the saddest tale to tell, especially when it’s about their bowling attack. The opposition batters have used it as a way to improve their records and going ahead, Mumbai would be keen to bully them a bit more, inching closer to the quarter-final.

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Skipper Ajinkya Rahane is a happy man because the youngsters in the team have made the job easier for him. He might be out of favour from the Indian team but a hundred against Assam in the previous encounter has given him the confidence to breach Fort Kotla.

“Obviously, Mumbai will play like Mumbai only. But our focus is to play one game at a time. What has happened in the past, that’s gone. Start fresh for every game and take confidence from the previous ones. Also, we respect our opponents and play to our strengths,” Rahane said while interacting with the media ahead of the clash against Delhi.

“We aren’t taking them lightly. Delhi is a very good team and Mumbai-Delhi games are always good. Important is to focus on our game plans and back each other,” he added.

It’s safe to say that when Rahane is the captain and is surrounded by youngsters in a team, the results have mostly been phenomenal. The cricketing world witnessed it in Australia a couple of years back and now, again, in the ongoing Ranji Trophy.

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The young guns of Mumbai have been scoring runs in bulk and the latest example was of Prithvi Shaw who smashed a mammoth 379 against Assam, setting the record for the highest individual score for Mumbai in Ranji Trophy history. So, the ‘josh is high’ in the dressing room and captain Rahane also gets inspired by it.

“The atmosphere is very good. It’s a very happy dressing room. I get to learn many things from all these guys and that’s my motto; my mantra is to keep learning from every individual and grow as a cricketer,” Rahane said in response to a query from News18 Cricketnext.

Not just Prithvi, but the likes of Sarfaraz Khan, Musheer, and Yashasvi Jaiswal among others have been strengthening the Mumbai batting this season. But not all days will be glittery. There will be gloomy days too. But they need not worry because captain Rahane has got their back.

“It’s important to back each and every individual in the team. I always believe that you have to put your arm around a guy who is not doing well or going through a rough patch. It’s important to give them that kind of confidence, give them that freedom, not only on the field but off the field. He can come to me and talk to me about whatever he wants or what’s going on in his personal life. So, I always give that freedom to my players,” Rahane answered a News18 Cricketnext query.

Well, the message to youngsters has always been clear and simple, “Control the controllable, and not dwell on things that are not in your hands. Just try and be in the moment and not think too far ahead.”

But apart from being a people’s captain, the 34-year-old did some self-discovery and tried to be the batter he was in his younger days. The entire rejuvenation process also includes amending his batting skills but not too much.

“I was thinking about old times and when I first came into the Ranji team. How I used to play, what was my thought process? I have gone back to the drawing board and I am trying to be the Ajinkya that I used to be in my initial days,” Rahane said.

“No major changes but small changes, skill-wise, now I have to be in the moment thinking for Mumbai and doing well for them. That’s on my mind completely. I am not thinking too much about my own batting but preparation matters a lot to me. Preparation has been really good even before Ranji season,” he added.

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