Elated after scoring his maiden Test hundred, Indian batsman Ajinkya Rahane on Saturday thanked retired legends Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid for inspiring him and helping him become a better player.
Rahane hit 118 runs in the ongoing second Test against New Zealand at the Basin Reserve to take India to a total of 438 runs in their first innings and give the team a lead of 246 runs.
"Rahul Dravid is my role model and I have been following him since childhood. I have played with him in the Indian team and with Rajasthan Royals, and so I really learnt a lot from him both on and off the field. I just want to thank Rahul bhai," Rahane said at the end of second day's play.
"I also want to thank Sachin (Tendulkar) paaji because during his last two Test matches, he told me about my batting. He said, 'I have been following you, and your hard work and your fitness. Just be patient and wait for your chance.' Thanks to both of them," he added.
The 25-year-old said he did not know how to express his feeling of elation at getting maiden Test ton after narrowly missing out on it in the tour of South Africa.
"I don't know how to express my feelings. A Test hundred is always special, but I will remember this first hundred for a long time. It's a very special hundred for me, but tomorrow is also a crucial day for us and hopefully the bowlers will do their job," said Rahane.
"Initially when I went in to bat, I just wanted to take my time to settle down and just wanted to play my game. I was looking to do whatever I have been doing in domestic cricket and continue the same way. I am really happy that I got a hundred here," he added.
Previously, his best score in Test cricket was 96 runs, which he made against South Africa at Durban. This time he went one better, despite being in the company of tailenders once again.
"In South Africa, when I got 96, I wanted to get that hundred because a first Test hundred is really special. I know how crucial four runs can be, because a hundred is a hundred. When you get out for 96, it still counts as a fifty," Rahane said.
"This time I wasn't thinking about my hundred and just wanted to play one ball at a time. I wanted to play in the present and not think about what is going to happen. I told Zaheer (Khan) to play his normal game and that I wasn't thinking of my hundred.
"I was trying to take as much strike as possible, play four-five deliveries and rotate strike off the last ball. That helped me because I was willing to back my ability and back my shots," he replied, when asked about doing things differently this time around.
Moving on then, the highlight of the Indian innings was the 120-run seventh wicket partnership between Rahane and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (68), putting India on the path to a strong total and a commanding position in the match.
"His innings gave me a lot of confidence because I have batted with him earlier too, in South Africa as well. He just told me to back myself and play my shots, to play one ball at a time and don't think too much about what's happening at the other end. That really helped me a lot and gave me good confidence," said the centurion.
At the end of day's play, New Zealand were placed at 24/1 and need another 223 runs to make India bat again, a tall ask with three full days remaining in the game.
"The first day was really helpful for the bowlers. Today there was only a little bit help for bowlers, not too much. We just have to be patient tomorrow and just bowl in the right areas.
"The Kiwis are under pressure. Our bowlers are doing a really great job and so they have to continue doing so," Rahane signed off.