2:26 PM IST
Karthik Krishnaswamy in Wellington
In the lead-up to the Wellington Test, a lot has been made of how much the city’s famous wind could affect the cricket. Ajinkya Rahane scored his maiden Test hundred here, six years ago, and he remembers having to tussle quite a bit with the wind whipping his bat this way and that in his backlift.
“That was a really special moment for me, getting that hundred,” Rahane said in his pre-match press conference on Thursday. “I remember that my backlift was changing because of the wind and that was a challenge to control my backlift. Sometimes you’ve got to play with low backlift and you have got to change your guard maybe, and play accordingly.
“I keep watching my maiden hundred. This is a new challenge, playing after four-five years. That [India] team was a comparatively young team. My record in New Zealand is good but I need to stay in the present to do well for my team.”
Rahane went on to elaborate on the effect of the wind on batsmen. “If the wind is coming from behind you, it pushes your bat on the outward plane, while if it comes from in front it pushes it inside,” he said. “So you have to think about how to adjust for that, or even reduce the backlift. If the wind is stronger from in front, it pushes the backlift really [further] back than you want it to go. So I have to think about the stance and also the backlift, especially in Wellington.
“In Wellington, when you are batting at the non-striker’s end, you look around this scenic ground and it makes you relax”
“Technically, you need to play close to the body, play the ball later, and play the ball in the middle of the body, especially in the initial period.”
Chats with Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, Rahane revealed, had helped him prepare for the wind.
“(The) breeze factor in so important in Wellington,” he said. “I remember talking to Tendulkar and Dravid and they said the same thing – batting in Wellington is different, even if you try to ignore it, if you don’t give it importance, it might be just 1% but it is very important.
“You cannot simulate the wind in the nets. As a batsman, it is instinctive in the middle, and you need to trust yourself and not be scared of altering it (backlift). You need back yourself and also need to communicate with your partner and trust what he says to you as well.”
Basin Reserve is one of the prettier grounds in Test cricket, with Mount Victoria in the background. Rahane says the picturesque surrounds help him switch off when he’s at the non-striker’s end.
“When you are batting, there are so many thoughts in your mind,” he said. “In Wellington, when you are batting at the non-striker’s end, you look around this scenic ground and it makes you relax. The pressure is reduced and I like that because it distracts me from constantly thinking about cricket. If my focus is diverted to the surroundings when I’m at the non-striker’s end, then when I get on strike I can use all my focus, energy and remain fresh while facing the ball.”