Perth: Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni feels that talented Mumbai batsman Ajinkya Rahane is one player who has improved by leaps and bounds in recent times and is ready to don any hat for the team's cause.
His 60-ball-79 against South Africa was equally important in the final context of the match, as much as Shikhar Dhawan's explosive century.
A Test century each in Wellington, Lord's and Melbourne bore hallmark of his class and his skipper is the first one to acknowledge that he is fast emerging into a force in limited overs format as well.
"Well, there has been improvement, irrespective of the format. In Twenty20, ODIs or as a Test player, he (Rahane) has really improved," Dhoni was quick to admit Rahane's growing stature in the team after his impactful knock against the Proteas at MCG yesterday.
According to Dhoni, the biggest advantage of Rahane is his flexibility and readiness to new ideas.
"Rahane is definitely one of the individuals, who is not really rigid. He is quite open to ideas," the skipper was all praise for the 26-year-old's adaptable approach.
The skipper said Rahane will always come up with a feedback after he has tried executing a new strategy or idea.
"Once he tries out a new idea, he gives you a good response as to whether it's working or not working for him. Also he's one of the fittest guys. You see him on the field, he's very quick, and his intensity actually never drops right from the first over until the 90th over. If you see a Test match, which to me is what fitness is all about," Dhoni said.
Dhoni has always been generous in his praise for his colleagues but when it came to Rahane, the skipper was in a mood to dissect the qualities that made him stand out in the pack.
From a distance, a player being fussy about his fielding position might not be a big deal but ask a leader when he gets someone, who is ready to put his hand up for the team's cause.
"He's not someone, who owns a particular (fielding) position. In a sense, he's not somebody, who wants to only field in cover position. Wherever, there is opportunity, he's willing to go there. Whether it is at boundary line, covers or leg slip, anywhere, so it becomes slightly easy for a captain," the skipper waxed eloquent about his trusted lieutenant.
If one takes the two warm-up matches into account, Rahane's sequence of scores in last five one-day matches are 73, 66, 88 no, 0, 79.
"The strength in his (Rahane's) batting is the gift of timing and his ability to exploit gaps in the field to an extent. It's really good to see him get the kind of runs. More importantly, how he has been getting those runs," the skipper said.
Dhoni said Rahane is an introvert, who normally keeps to himself.
"If you normally ask him to do something, he would simply nod and say yes," Dhoni had a smile as he showed how the Mumbaikar nods like an obedient student.