We have to play really well to beat England, says Rahane

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My job is to visualise the flow of the game and offer suggestions to Virat whenever he asks me, says Rahane.

Big things come in small packages. Ajinkya Rahane is rather diminutive but packs a hefty cricketing punch.

Whether slicing open an attack with rapier-like strokes — cutting, pulling, or drilling the ball through the gaps with a surgeon’s precision — or leading the Indian team with tactical nous and steely resilience, Rahane does it all and more.

After heroically captaining India in the last three Tests Down Under for a remarkable 2-1 Test series triumph following the disastrous 36 all out in the first Test, Rahane is settling in his role as the vice-captain. “Virat is the captain. My job as vice-captain is to visualise the flow of the game and offer suggestions to Virat whenever he asks me,” he said modestly during an interactive chat with the media on Wednesday.

Not complacent

The first Test against England looms on Friday at Chepauk and Rahane said the Indian team was not complacent after the high of Australia. “Australia was awesome and I remember the celebrations that went into the night at Brisbane. But we have to live in the present and England is a very good side. We have to play really well to beat them,” he said.

The 32-year-old Rahane has 4,471 runs in 69 Tests at 42.58 and most of his contributions have come when his team needed him to score.

Always flexible for the team’s cause, Rahane is making the adjustments needed to bat No. 5 again, with Kohli returning to the side. “It should not be difficult, it is a mental switch,” he said.

In a team-game you have to play different roles and at different slots and Rahane is someone who believes in togetherness. “It is not about individuals. You have to play together as a team.”

He said the Indian players could stay for long periods in the bubble because “We enjoy each other’s company.”

More so on a pitch that offers turn. Asked about the surface for the first Test, Rahane replied, “There will be spin. We will play to our strengths.”

England won the recent series against Sri Lanka 2-0 but its batsmen struggled against the left-arm spin of Lasith Embuldenia, who picked up 15 wickets in the two Tests.

Under the circumstances, would India play left-arm spinning all-rounder Axar Patel as a like-for-like replacement for Ravindra Jadeja in the first Test?

The vice-captain kept his cards close to his chest, not revealing the team composition. The indications are that Washington Sundar will play here in a three-pronged spin attack after his match-winning all-round display in the pulsating decider at the Gabba.

Rahane revealed the mercurial Hardik Pandya was batting and bowling in the nets.

Playing as much with his head as his willow, Rahane is up for the English challenge. He’s a big guy in a small package.

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