You couldn't make out what Ajinkya Rahane was saying. You could see that he was talking to himself. Who else? It was him alone in the middle. Against the rejuvenated West Indies fast bowlers, against his own doubts and doubters, against his own ordinary form, against the scoreboard reading 25 for 3.
There were 11 of them trying to get him out, and the only on Rahane's side was 22 yards away. A mumble, really. Almost every time the camera zoomed in on Rahane as the bowler ran in, you could see he was talking to himself.
It could have been anything. Rahane is big on visualization, so it might have been just a reinforcement of the visions of him doing well. A reminder, perhaps, to forget everything else, to just watch the ball. He is not of such disposition, but, who knows, he might have been singing. Or chanting. But something, anything, just to remind him that in that moment all thoughts other than the next ball were junk. His form, his two century-less years, forensics of how it has come down to this, all this needed to consigned to the bin.
Eventually, Rahane still didn't have the elusive century. It has been 29 innings now, but what he has is the satisfaction of having seen his team out of that precarious situation. And he has had to do it with an effort that doesn't fit the Rahane template.
One of the features of Rahane's batting is the need to get off to a quick start. He is a batsman who likes to feel bat on ball, a couple of early boundaries before he sets into a long innings. That can sometimes be streaky, even if breathtaking, to watch on days that it comes off. Here, Rahane stayed away from any risk. For four continuous overs at the start of his innings, he was pinned to one end by Jason Holder for four straight maidens. In between, he took a single against the other bowler; before he finally managed a run off Holder he had scored just one run off 30 balls.
This kind of restraint is unheard of from Rahane. His default response when pushed into such a situation is to counterattack. In this innings, though, Rahane was prepared to not manufacture that counterattack. He was prepared to wait for as long as it took. And in his first four overs, Holder didn't give him anything. The pitch, according to Rahane, was sticky and had some sideways movement still. Holder bowled the hard length and wide enough for Rahane to be playing away from the body if he wanted to have a go. He was not willing to take such a risk.
Despite the slow scoring rate, Rahane was playing the innings he wanted to play. The control numbers say as much: against Holder, the bowler who managed to trouble him the most, he was in control 90% of the time. He just put away the square drive and the slash, which meant a lower strike rate but higher control numbers.
The loose balls arrived as the pitch eased out, the ball softened, and more importantly the main bowlers tired. Miguel Cummins failed to continue asking the questions those before him did. Rahane was back to batting on instinct.
"As long as I am contributing to the team, that's what that matters," he said later of missing out on the relief that the hundred might have brought. "Yes I was thinking about my hundred, but see the situation we were in the morning at 20 for 3 was tricky. I just thought if I could contribute to my team that would be great. I am not too worried about my hundreds. They will come automatically. As long as I am at the crease, I am thinking about batting… I am not a selfish guy. I always think about the team. So I am not too concerned about the hundred. I thought 81 on that wicket was crucial. We are in a decent position now."
What will annoy him, though, is the manner of the dismissal. It was back to what has troubled Rahane often in the past. The half-and-half shot. Neither a drive nor a cut. Just looking to punch the ball without getting into a great position to be able to do so. The bat comes down at an angle; often it gets Rahane's outside edge, here it took the inside edge onto the stumps. He might put up a brave front about missing that century, but he will be talking to himself a lot more before he gets to bat next.