Colombo, Sep 13, 2023, IANS
Colombo, Sep 13 (IANS) KL Rahul was initially not slated to be in India’s playing eleven for their Asia Cup Super Four match against Pakistan, till a back spasm to Shreyas Iyer made him a last-minute addition.
It gave Rahul his first international game since March, and after undergoing surgery plus rehabilitation for a right thigh injury sustained in IPL 2023. In a rain-marred match which India won by 228 runs, Rahul struck an unbeaten 111, placing his shots well and attacking against spinners, followed by keeping wickets for the entire game.
Against Sri Lanka on Tuesday, Rahul made 39 off 44 balls before becoming one of Dunith Wellalage’s five victims via a caught-and-bowled dismissal. He would then take a catch and effect a stumping as India won by 41 runs to end Sri Lanka’s winning streak of 13 games.
Now reflecting on his stunning comeback to international cricket, Rahul credited his preparation in last three to four months for the strong showing with bat and gloves, after initially not being in the frame to be in the eleven.
"I didn’t get so much time to think about anything because it was so last moment. But I trusted my preparation in the last three or four months. I came to Sri Lanka thinking that I would start in the playing eleven, and that’s how I was preparing for it. I was confident that I can still go there and do the job," he said in the post-match press conference.
Asked about what he felt while batting, Rahul said, "When I played the first few balls, I was nervy and tried to figure out what are the shots I could play on this pitch and accordingly diffuse the pressure.
"It was different against Pakistan because the ground allowed us to play more shots and see what suits as per the match. But in this match (against Sri Lanka), I am happy that the shots I chose to play till I got out were good."
Rahul also revealed that he worked hard on his wicketkeeping at the NCA in Bengaluru, having been majorly donning the role since 2020. “Bahut saal ho gaya abhi (it’s been many years now in wicketkeeping). I have been keeping for a while and since then Rishabh (Pant) was concussed against Australia in 2019 (January 2020), so it’s not something new. I have been told by the team management that this would be my role in the team.
"When I was at NCA, during my recovery, I worked on my keeping with the coaches there. Earlier, I was mostly batting, but this time, I did spend a lot of my time on keeping too. Hopefully I can do both the roles well."
In the last two matches, left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav has picked a fifer and four-wicket haul. Rahul was pleased to see Kuldeep perform brilliantly and be the standout bowler for the team.
"Kuldeep has bowled really well, especially in the last two matches. I am really enjoying keeping to him. I am really enjoying watching him bowling and I can see that he has developed a few new tricks in last year or so that are honestly giving some results to him, so much that I haven’t been able to pick it under lights."
"We keep talking between the overs about the strategy to be adopted to get a batter out or how to keep a set batter away from the strike. His rhythm has also been good in the last two matches and it’s all upto him on executing those strategies."
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