IT IS A SUN-SOAKED DAY IN PUNE AND AJINKYA Rahane walks in on set dressed in sweatpants. Introvert by his own admission, Ajinkya greets me with a wide smile. To be honest, Ajinkya’s flamboyant colleagues have enjoyed more attention, but he is unaffected.
With his love for the sport, he has quietly become one of Indian cricket’s biggest stars. As I sat on set sipping a cup of cappuccino and munching on cookies with Ajinkya, I started to think about how well we know of Ajinkya on the field, his records and his achievements. So why don’t we get to know the man sans his team colours, sans his bat, sans the cricket ball and away from the floodlights.
“I started playing cricket when I was a teenager and I fell in love with the sport. My biggest dream was to play for my country and that will be my biggest achievement,” he tells me. “I am here because of my parents. My family has sacrificed a lot for me so it was my dream to do something for them. My father would drop me to Dombivili station and follow me through another compartment behind me to make sure that I could travel safely. I remember my mom used to walk 6-7kms with the cricket kit on her shoulder because we couldn’t afford rickshaw rides. I remember and am grateful for all the sacrifices they have made for me,” added Ajinkya.
And in that one statement he reveals so much more about himself than he probably imagines. When you meet a cricketer who has broken many records, it is natural to assume that he would want to highlight every achievement of his to hook a thumb at his past detractors, but no, Ajinkya Rahane is not your regular cricketer, he counts the chance to be a part of team Blue as his biggest achievement.
I detect a strange lack of ego here for a cricketer of his stature. So when I asked him to describe himself off the field, he puts it in just two words. “Simple and fun-loving.” For a journalist, who writes about 3,000 words for a story, his two-word reply took me by surprise.
While Ajinkya appeared to me as a shy person, he definitely opened up once he felt comfortable. When I brought out a pink double-breasted blazer and told Ajinkya that this is what I want him to wear for the first shot, he looked at me in surprise as if telling me ‘are you serious? Why would you want to put me in a pink suit’ but then he agreed, and I heaved a sigh of relief! Phew! I was surprised by Ajinkya’s ease to face the camera, his willingness to try new looks, even if it was something that he hasn’t worn before and take instructions.
With some courage I told Ajinkya that I always perceived him to be timid, but after seeing him on this shoot, I feel there is more to him than his shy demeanor. He let out a laugh and brushed me off by saying, “Haha! I wouldn’t say I am shy and timid. I think I am calm and not too expressive about my emotions. I love expressing myself when I bat,” and with that he opened yet another window into his private life.
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