By Greg Stutchbury
WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Ajinkya Rahane consciously ignored that he was closing in on his first test century on the second day of the second test against New Zealand, mindful that he had fallen in the 90s against South Africa when he was too keen to achieve the milestone.
Rahane top-scored with 118 for India and contributed to valuable partnerships with Virat Kohli (38), captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (68) and pace bowler Zaheer Khan (22) to guide the visitors to 438, an overall lead of 246 runs.
New Zealand finished the day struggling on 24 for one, still needing 222 runs to make the visitors bat again after Peter Fulton was trapped leg before for one by Zaheer in the second over of the innings.
"During the 90s when me and Zaheer were batting, I wasn't thinking about my hundred," Rahane told reporters at the Basin Reserve.
"In South Africa when I got 96, I wanted to get that hundred because the first hundred is really special," he added of the score he got against the Proteas in Durban last December.
"This time I wasn't thinking about my hundred. I just wanted to play one ball at a time and keep as much strike as possible because we were eight wickets down and Zaheer Khan was batting.
"I told him I'd take four to five balls and take a single on the last ball (and) that really helped me because I didn't think about what was going to happen."
A prolific run scorer at first class level, the 25-year-old made his one-day debut in 2011 and was selected for tours but was unable to break into the lineup that included Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman in the test side.
He finally cracked the test team against Australia last year when Shikhar Dhawan was injured and settled into the number six position on India's tour of South Africa late last year.
Rahane scored 209 runs in four innings against Graeme Smith's side at an average of almost 70, though getting out for 96 in Durban obviously rankled him.
"When you get out for 96 it counts as 50. So I just wanted to be there as long as possible and play my shots," he said. "I'm really glad that I got a hundred.
"A test hundred is always special. Obviously the first hundred will be remembered for a long time so it's a special hundred for me."
Rahane, who counts Dravid as his role model, said he owed the former batting great for helping him achieve his goals of making the test team.
"I've been following him from my childhood," Rahane said.
"He's my role model. I played with him for India ... I really learned a lot on the field as well as off the field."
While Rahane had buried the nagging doubt of having missed out on a test century, he was still not convinced that he had cemented his place in an Indian side that is going through transition.
"I'm not thinking about that. I always take one game at a time and I just want to improve one game at a time," he said.
"Tomorrow is a crucial day so I'm just looking forward to that and I'm sure the boys will do well."
(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)