KL Rahul, who marked his Test comeback in style, revealed that he realized after getting dropped that he was trying to play too many shots, and thus learned to shelve that urge upon his return. Rahul further asserted that he is ready to play any role that the management wants him to do.
Despite notching up a ton in the warm-up game against County XI, KL Rahul looked set to warm the bench for the first Test but an untimely injury to Mayank Agarwal meant that, a day ahead of the game, the Karnataka man was notified that he would be opening the innings. Given the tragic nature of his previous stint as an opener in Tests, expectations were low and with the ball moving around, a failure for Rahul, many believed, was inevitable.
But in what instead turned out to be one of the most remarkable comeback knocks of the century, arguably played his best ever Test knock to not just silence critics, but to put India in pole position in the first Test. Despite no batsman across the two sides looking comfortable on a Trent Bridge wicket that had 10mm of grass, Rahul showcased incredible patience and complimented it with immaculate stroke-making to finish as India’s top-scorer, 16 shy of a Test century.
The 2.0 version of Rahul in Test cricket seemed unrecognizable from the one that donned the jersey two years ago, and speaking post the day’s play on Friday, the 29-year-old revealed that, more than anything, the biggest change he made was on the mental front - to control the urge to play shots.
"I used to have a lot of thoughts in my mind. I felt I could play two or three different shots for every given ball in red ball cricket, so that was something I realised, I had to learn to control," Rahul said during a media interaction after the end of third day's play on Friday.
"Sometimes when the going gets tough or the wickets are challenging, playing against good bowlers, when the ball is swinging, you have to hold back some of the shots, so those are the things, I tried to work on, or those were the learnings from when I was failing in Test cricket.
"I haven't got to play a lot of red ball cricket but sitting outside, watching the games and watching batsmen score runs was good enough for me. I have been playing cricket, so the mental bit, like I said, in any format is it important that shot selection is spot on.
"I am happy that today I could go out there and show a lot of discipline, and get my team a good start and then put us in a good position."
Rahul batted for 69 overs and faced 214 balls in the process, 106 more than any other batsman across the both sides. Though frequent rain-breaks kept taking players off the field, his rhythm never broke, and he kept hitting the reset button at the right time to ensure that he stays in the zone. The opener from Karnataka revealed that he enjoys the English weather, and asserted that he loved spending time in the middle.
"It is challenging to play here. They have a world class bowling attack. Anderson and Broad, those who watch cricket, know how skillful they are, and they have done it time and again. Almost 600 wickets each, challenging to play against them.
"It is fun playing in the middle. It keeps you on your toes and I quite enjoy being here. The weather is good, you don't get that tired as well, so l love playing in England,” Rahul said.
Rahul opened for the side only due to a last-minute injury to Agarwal, and earlier there were murmurs that he was identified as a middle-order option. In fact, it was in the middle-order that he struck the ton against County XI a fortnight ahead of the first Test. Whether the 84 in the first innings will change the management’s mind remains to be seen, but Rahul asserted that he is ready to bat anywhere the team wants him to.
"Look, if anything in the last two years I have learnt is that you need to be ready to do anything, I have been asked to do different roles, a lot of times and I quite enjoy doing it, so this was another opportunity for me to go out there and challenge myself.”