On Monday, with three days to go for the start of the Test series against Sri Lanka, Ajinkya Rahane walked into the spinners’ net at Eden Gardens and began reverse-sweeping roughly every fourth ball. Every time Kuldeep Yadav floated one a little wide of off stump, down Rahane would go, lithely, onto his back knee to reverse-slap him square or reverse-paddle him fine.
He didn’t always connect, and when he did he didn’t always connect cleanly, but this was a clear, concerted effort to practise the shot.
“It’s important to improve your game day by day,” Rahane said on Tuesday. “When you’re practising in the nets, it is important to evolve and I am just practising. I just want to improve. I always think that if I improve one shot in the nets session, I’ll be better off during the game – if the opportunity comes in the game, I am 100% confident of playing a particular shot.
“I am just practising – reverse-sweep, sweep, paddle sweep. Just an option.”
The reverse-sweep isn’t a shot Rahane is known to play all that much, but neither was the orthodox sweep, until a few months ago, when he used it with great effect to disrupt Nathan Lyon’s line in a match-turning second-innings partnership with Cheteshwar Pujara in Bengaluru.
Asked if he was comfortable enough with the reverse-sweep to bring it out against Sri Lanka, Rahane said it was a question of feeling confident about it in the middle.
“I am comfortable,” he said. “For me, it is important to give my 100% in the nets. If I am comfortable and confident in the game, I’ll play that shot.”
Ever since Rangana Herath bowled Sri Lanka to a come-from-behind win in Galle two years ago, India have looked to blunt his threat by going after him at every opportunity, more often than not by using their feet to him. It has worked: since that Galle Test, Herath has averaged 53.61 against India, taking 13 wickets in four Tests and giving away 3.58 runs per over. Rahane might just throw in the odd reverse-sweep to further India’s aggressive approach against him.