Ajinkya Rahane's batting position in the ODI side has been a topic of debate but the Mumbai batsman made it clear that his preferred slot will be number four after a well-made 79 in India's six-wicket win against South Africa in the first ODI. Prior to this series, Rahane was being dubbed as the reserve opener as team management experimented with a number of batsmen at that position but things have changed after his half-century in the opening game coming at number four.
KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Hardik Pandya, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav and Dinesh Karthik have all been tried at that position with mixed results. Asked if he is more comfortable at number four, Rahane said: "I am better equipped for batting at number four, I am more matured now. I know how to build my innings at number four," Rahane said ahead of the second ODI.
"Batting at number four is different. The confidence came from last Test win at Johannesburg, where I scored 48 runs. But I was actually determined to do well at that slot because I have batted at that position during the 2015 World Cup (in Australia and New Zealand)," Rahane added.
About his innings during first ODI, Rahane seemed satisfied as a target of 270 seemed par-score.
"We knew that it (270) was a par score on that wicket. Our bowlers did a really good job. Personally, I really enjoyed batting at that particular position and I am looking forward to doing even better," he added.
When asked about the challenges of batting two-down as he was primarily perceived as an opener, Rahane replied: "It's all about how you think, especially when you bat at Nos 3 and 4, it's all about how you think. My mindset was just to take my time initially and then later on back my instincts.
The pace and bounce on South African wickets suit his style of batsmanship, said Rahane. "I am naturally an attacking batsman and these wickets suit me a lot. There is good pace and bounce. So these wickets suit me a lot.
So my plan was to take my time initially and if I get set, then carry on my innings."
Challenging the surfaces with quality pace attack is something that Rahane always enjoys facing and it's no different. "I enjoy playing against every opponent but I think teams like South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, they have very good attacks in world cricket and I enjoy facing fast bowlers.
"I enjoy facing challenges, and when you play in South Africa against this sort of attack you know that you are up for the challenge. We don't take them lightly. As I mentioned, I just wanted to take my time but I enjoyed facing this challenge," he said.
The soft-spoken Mumbaikar said that his mind was completely blank before the start of the series.
"I was completely blank. I wasn't thinking about any result. Ahead of this (series), I didn't know what was going to happen. I was just thinking about what would be my role in the series. I just wanted to keep contributing towards the win. Right now, the team management told me to bat at No 4 position. So I just want to give my best shot," he added.
(With PTI Inputs)