KL Rahul has said that his hunger to be the best batsman in the longest format of the game is what drives him to perform better. The Karnataka batsman, who started the season at the 57th position, managed to break into the top 10 due to some exceptional performances against England and Australia.
Rahul made his debut
“I still feel that I played international cricket a couple of years later than I would've wanted to. There's no one to blame for that but me. I wasn't disciplined enough; I was always hard-working, but I didn't work smartly to perform at Ranji Trophy or the IPL opportunities that I got. I feel like I should have done it a lot earlier because I had the self-confidence and I have been blessed with a lot of natural talent,” Rahul told TOI in an exclusive interview.
They are playing a different level than the rest of us. You do ask yourself, if you can you beat all of them, be better than them, be No. 1
In his three-year journey of international cricket, Rahul has faced success and failure equally. After scoring an impressive 158 against West Indies at Sabina Park, he struggled to keep going and scored just 182 runs in the 7 innings that followed. However, that all changed when he played an unforgettable knock against England when he fell short of a double century by a single run at Chepauk in December 2016.
“There are times you fail and you tell yourself it is important to fail. I have made peace with failing. It doesn't bog me down, I don't go back to the dressing room and question my ability and skill. If I've failed while wanting to do well, if my hunger, focus and desire to win games for the team is there I can live with myself. I've become more mature, calmer. I can give myself straight answers, without getting emotional. I sit by myself and look into the mirror and the person giving me the answers isn't anyone else. Instead, it is what is best for me,” Rahul said.
Rahul holds the record for taking just 20 innings to score an international hundred in all formats of the game after he beat Ahmed Shehzad’s record by 56 innings. The Karnataka opener added that even though he valued the record, he emphasized that he still had a long way to go in order to achieve his aim of being the greatest Test batsmen in the world.
“It is always good for a youngster to know that he has a record that nobody else has done before. It gives me a lot of confidence. But you do question yourself, can you become the No. 1 batsman in Test cricket? You look at the top five or six batsmen and I'm in awe of them - Steve Smith, Joe Root, Virat Kohli, (Kane) Williamson, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers. All of these are guys, I love to sit and watch. They are playing a different level than the rest of us. You do ask yourself, if you can you beat all of them, be better than them, be No. 1. That's what maybe pushes you to work harder,” added the Karnataka batsman.
I went into this series with people saying, 'he's very inconsistent, gets a hundred and the next three-four games doesn't even get into double-figures'.
The 25-year-old said that his change in the intent was the reason for his transformation as a consistent batsman in the series against Australia where he scored 6 half-centuries in the 7 innings he played.
“I went into this series with people saying, 'he's very inconsistent, gets a hundred and the next three-four games doesn't even get into double-figures'. It's a true and right statement. It doesn't help me or the team. I'm the opening batsman and I've already played 12-odd games. I can't get out and say, 'oh I'm still new, I got a good ball.' Earlier I used to say, 'it's a good ball, what can I do?'” Rahul said.
“But in international cricket, you are going to get more good balls, you have to find a way, the intent has to be there. Maybe I didn't have the same intent in the two or three innings after I got a hundred. To remain in the mindset where you want to keep doing well consistently, is something I had to figure out for myself. This Australian series taught me that. I felt a sense of responsibility after the Pune Test match. Even if I'm soft, not hard on myself, I will still say that I was one of the biggest reasons for stuffing up the Pune Test match.”
He has, however, been prone to injuries. From missing the series against New Zealand after playing the first Test to missing the IPL season after his exploits in the India-Australia series, Rahul has had his own quota of unfortunate injuries. Just when he seemed to have become a serious contender for the opening role for the National team, he went under the knife in England and was ruled out of the Champions Trophy.
His absence in the IPL this year reflected in his franchise’s performance this season with the Bangalore-based outfit finishing dead last on the points table. Rahul had been instrumental in RCB’s magnificent run to the final last year with the local hero adding over 250 runs to the team’s cause.
On being asked about how vital the exposure in the league is, he said, “IPL helps you grow faster. You get to interact with so many legends and people who are successful. You get to see what they do, what they are thinking and how they've changed their cricket. Those are things I would've otherwise