India opening batsman KL Rahul in the city yesterday. The Bangalore batsman missed the IPL due to a shoulder injury. Pic/Bipin Kokate
He was India's braveheart, fighting the pain with an injured left shoulder during the Test series at home against Australia. Karnataka batsman KL Rahul amassed 393 runs at 65.50, including six fifties in seven innings, to finish as India's second-highest run getter in the four-match series. However, just as the runs from his willow have been consistent, so have injuries, leaving the opener rather frustrated as he hasn't faced a ball since hitting the winning runs in the fourth Test at Dharamsala.
In an interview with mid-day, Rahul (25) recalled how a similar injury bogged him down in his younger days before the experience of playing in the Red Bull Campus Cricket T20 tourney helped him make a comeback to the Ranji Trophy team and subsequently get picked for IPL outfit Royal Challengers Bangalore.
How frustrating is it for you to keep getting injured as frequently as you do?
It's not nice to get injured so often at the age of 24-25 and especially since I've been in great form for the last 12 months. I'm playing all the three formats for my country. Now is the time I want to start playing more games. I am doing everything right. I am taking care of my fitness and nutrition, but somehow, I still keep getting injured. That's very frustrating.
Do you fear that frequent injuries could cost you your place in the Indian team?
Of course! There's always that doubt, not just with injury, but with my performance as well. But it's just a very small part of my brain that has these doubts. More than doubting my place in the team, I want to take care of my body. I know that if am 100 per cent fit, both physically and mentally, I'll keep performing. It's hard to comeback after injury because I have that doubt that I might get injured again. All these doubts play on my mind. These are the mental battles I face more than whether I am going to get a zero or a 100.
How do you motivate yourself to stay away from such doubts?
I am very positive person, never one who whines. The thought of me coming back and hitting the ball from the middle and into the stands is what keeps me going and wakes me up in the morning. Now, when I will watch the ICC Champions Trophy, my heart and my body will burn more with desire. That will push me to get fitter and stronger sooner.
What's the update on your shoulder injury?
It's healed well. This whole month will go in physiotherapy and rehabilitation, followed by a more month of training. In the second or third week of July, I should be able to start playing. It's a big surgery, so I'd rather give myself one or two weeks extra, to be completely confident.
What's the best advice you have received till date?
It was last year from AB de Villiers. I got three or four back-to-back fifties in the IPL. Once, I was sitting with him, very disappointed that I couldn't finish a game. I was unable to convert the fifties or sixties into bigger scores. I always felt I could get a 100 or 110 for my team, but I would get out on 50 or 60 which wasn't helping the team and we lost a couple of games. I was frustrated and felt like banging my head against the wall. That's when AB told me that I shouldn't be chasing numbers. He told me that if I kept things simple, good things would come to me. He said cricket is a very simple game and the more you complicate it, the harder it gets. The simpler you keep things, the game will give you more in return, he said.
Many of India's good results the recent home season have been mainly due to your contribution with the bat. How have you evolved as a batsman?
I've tried to keep things simple in my head and in my technique. I go out there and try to assess the conditions and see what best I can do for the team and play out my roles and responsibilities to the best I can. I've been playing in the Test team for the last two years and I realised that as an opening batsman I have a big responsibility to make sure that my team gets off to a good start. A big part of it is because I am enjoying that responsibility. I've gone out there and played aggressive cricket with a lot of freedom. A few times I got out playing irresponsible shots, but at that time I felt that time that was the best shot and I didn't execute it properly, but it doesn't mean the next time I go out there I won't play the same shot. I've got a lot backing from the team, coach and captain.
A lot of former players such as Rahul Dravid have spoken very highly of you. Does that add to the pressure of performing or is that fodder for your performance?
It feels good that senior cricketers like Dravid talk very highly about me. It pushes me to get better. I feel a sense of responsibility that when a legend like that gives you a compliment, you have to prove them right. I enjoy being that person where the team looks up to you.
Do you like when somebody advises you or do you like playing your own game on the field?
I like to be my own self. I don't mind getting an advice or two, but I will still go out there and think what I feel is the best. I have played enough cricket to understand how to play each situation. If I am ever in a situation where I don't know what to do, then I will go to my seniors or my coach and try to get his advice.
There's a lot of news going around now about cricket matches being fixed. How do you feel when you read such kind of stories?
It is hurtful man. You don't want to disrespect the game that has given us everything. To read things about match fixing and people doing it, it hurts a lot. For people, it is easy to say that when somebody gets out or bowls a no-ball, or when a team goes from 120-1 to 135 all out, the easiest to say is that this match is fixed. You don't want people and viewers to watch the game thinking or having this thought that there is something fishy happening. It's a sport, it happens. The sooner people understand that a team game cannot be fixed; the better it is for the sport.
You've been making quite a few style statements, with your tattoos and hair styles. Is that also part of your personality?
I don't think I have to try to do anything. This is who I am. Everybody likes to dress well and look cool. I don't have to show or prove to anybody. I am not somebody who does things for people. What people say doesn't matter to me much. I want to be a guy who does good, but it doesn't always be that way.
Now that I am not playing cricket and I have all the time in the world, people really think that I am actually taken a break and I am on a vacation, that's why I am not playing IPL. To such people who don't know anything about the sport, you can't say anything. Harsh judgments from people is not a reflection about me, it's a reflection about themselves and how much understanding they have about life. I laugh it off.
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